Engineered Public Confession

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

#190. I will never tell the hero, "Yes, I was the one who did it, but you'll never be able to prove it to that incompetent old fool." Chances are, that incompetent old fool is standing behind the curtain.

"This town means about as much to me as a festering bowl of dog snot. You think I care about the pea-brained yokels of this town? If you took their collective IQ, and multiplied it by 100, you might just have enough intelligence to tie your shoe, if you didn't drool all over yourself first! Ah, I can't stand those sniveling maggots, they make me want to puke! But there is one good thing about broadcasting to a town full of mindless sheep. I always know I'll have them exactly where I want them! (points to the palm of his hand and follows up with a maniacal laugh)"

R. J. Fletcher, not knowing that he's being recorded, UHF

It's a Just Between You and Me moment: the villain, secure in his superior planning or intellect, is monologuing in exquisite detail how his Evil Plan is going to profit him by screwing over all the people who trust or depend on him—completely and blissfully unaware that the hero or an associate has arranged a Hidden Wire, PA microphone or other relay of the villain's words, which are heard with perfect clarity by a figure of authority and/or the villain's dupes. They, of course, realize just how they've been deceived and turn on him. Alternatively, the hero may be concealing a tape recorder, and will replay the villain's words in front of authorities just when it seems as if he'll get away with it all. Turns out that the hero has recorded the whole thing, and the proof of the villain's evilness is Caught on Tape - or even inserted in place of a mainstream TV signal using broadcast interception. Often accompanied by a priceless Oh Crap from the exposed villain when he realizes what's happening.

Variation of Right Behind Me, but done intentionally, and usually with more people listening. Also similar to Bluffing the Murderer, but it relies on overconfidence rather than panic on the part of the villain.

Usually the moment of demise for the Straw Hypocrite and the Villain with Good Publicity. Has also been the bane of the Chessmaster and the downfall of the Manipulative Bastard on many occasions.

With the development of Deepfake technology in the late 2010s, it's possible that anything other than an in-person implementation of this trope may be fated to become Discredited.

Compare Accidental Public Confession, Did I Just Say That Out Loud? and Is This Thing Still On?

Examples of Engineered Public Confession include:

Anime and Manga

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: At the very start of the series, when Edward and Alphonse are battling the fake priest Cornello, Edward is trapped but has a huge microphone hidden as Cornello explains how he is manipulating the populace and so on.

Edward: Then tell me all the bad things you've done...
Cornello: I once kicked a small child and stole candy from a puppy.
Edward: That's right... keep em coming...
Cornello: I'm also making these worthless townfolk believe in a fake god so I can turn them into my fearless army and take over the country with the Philosopher's Stone!
Edward: Ha Ha! You've just been caught! This whole conversation was live on the radio.
Cornello: Not only that, but I once took part in a devil's three way with a nun. A nun!
Edward: Uh, you can stop...
Cornello: I also wear a monocle! And a top hat!
Edward: I see you're gonna keep going...
Cornello: I was once even the CEO of Fox Entertainment, and it was I who canceled such great shows as Arrested Development and Futurama! *evil laugh* Ah ha... I'm evil...

  • Patlabor
    • Patlabor 2: One of the people behind the terrorist attacks, Shigeki Arakawa, refuses to confess anything. Shigeki Arakawa is also Affably Evil. He went to Kiichi Goto when Yukihito Tsuge decided to alter the plan and start a limited war that would topple the Japanese government. Shigeki Arakawa’s original plan was a harsh political protest that used limited and controlled violence. Goto also agrees with Arakawa’s observations on the reality of peace, war, and political leaders exploit chaos instead of using a measured response.
  • Done in the last episode of Gunsmith Cats when Haints finds Radinov in his office and launches into a rant about her failures, only to discover that she's really Kate with a wig and a microphone.
  • In Code Geass R2, Lelouch pulls a massive Gambit Roulette just to get one of these, all in order to secure China as an ally in the fight against The Empire.
  • This happens twice in Martian Successor Nadesico, transmitting some things Nergal would rather have remained hidden to the entire ship. The second time, in fact, Mr. Prospector seems to have some sort of "reveal bad guys' secret" button (designed to look like Ruri's face for some reason) on his shirt that he casually brushes as their captor gets rolling.
  • Infinite Ryvius: Captain Airs Blue at one point considers betraying and abandoning the crew of the Ryvius, unaware that a treacherous subordinate has turned on the ship's intercom. Needless to say, he isn't Captain for much longer.
  • A non-villainous (sorta-kinda) happened in GetBackers. Makubex finally explains that stealing the implosion lens wasn't just a plot to ransom the gods of Mugenjou and return things to how they before Ginji left; it was all prophesied in the Archive, and he was just doing his best to play his part and see if he could find a way to break the gods' control. He even revealed that his public persona as the "demon king" was largely a product of his virtual reality systems. Ren runs in after he finishes talking, reveals that she used his computer to broadcast it all over Lower Town, and that they're all waiting outside, cheering wildly and yelling things like "Long live Makubex!"
  • One Piece had one during the Enies Lobby arc where Spandam, after accidentally activating the Buster Call, is gloating to Nico Robin about his future plans and how all the Marines under him are sheep. The kicker to this is that HE was the one who left the radio on for all to hear. Then he weakly tries to cover it up by trying to imitate Luffy when he finally notices this. No one is fooled, of course.
  • Sket Dance plays this completely straight when a teacher caught framing a pupil for his own misdeeds confesses all with the immortal lines: 'No matter what you say, nobody will believe you!' Unfortunately for him, he was being broadcast over the school intercom system at that very moment, and the Sket-dan had fiddled with their classroom's speaker so that he wouldn't notice it.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, during his fight with Yusei, Divine reveals that he was the one who murdered Misty's brother (Misty was under the impression that Aki had, and had become a Dark Signer to seek revenge - acquiring the use of Jibakushin Ccarayhua).He discovers too late that Yusei's Duel Disk had a microphone in it, which he had activated beforehand, and becomes Ccarayhua's dinner.
  • Peach Girl evil mastermind Sae is tricked by Kairi into expounding on her patented Wounded Gazelle Gambit routine, and how she has repeatedly made Momo look like a monster before the class. Unknown to her Touji is right around the corner, and hearing her bragging finally wakes him up, and he in turn makes damn sure the class knows who and what Sae really is. The worst part was, they kind of already did, but admitted falling for an act they themselves had been victimized by before--and sadly, would again before all was done.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the school's newspaper editor tries to engineer the downfall of the Host Club, only to have his plans thwarted by a recording machine disguised as a first aid kit which Kyouya placed into the newspaper room.
  • 20th Century Boys: An incredible inversion. For the entire series, Friend's Villain with Good Publicity status was his greatest advantage over the heroes. And just before the endgame, he throws it away willingly, casually telling the entire world the atrocities he's done on live television. At that point, he's so crazy and his plan so close to fruition that it doesn't really matter anymore.
    • Why does he do this? This is the second Friend, who we later see was humiliated by the first Fried during their childhoods. So as an act of revenge, he deliberately ruins the reputation that the first Friend worked so hard to build before he died.
  • Largely how Near manages to expose Light as Kira in Death Note, sans the tech equipment but Light's god complex ego is more then enough.
  • In an episode of Busou Renkin, homunculi were attacking the protagonists' high school, and the main heroes were fighting them off. One student was a collaborator with the villains, and so used the intercom to convince the other students that the heroes were also enemies so they would attack them. The hero's friends call-out the student over the intercom and get him to reveal his treachery.
  • Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions has Grings Kodai's plan curving for a meteoric downward spiral after Zorua nicked his forearm. This had the side effect of breaking his illusion canceller, but he was too absorbed in both his own ego - as he gloats to Ash about his Dark Secret - and Zoroark's illusion to tell the difference as he drew power from a fake Time Ripple projected a few feet closer to Kodai than the real one, allowing Ash's friends to record his gloating on video. Then time rewinds in front of him, revealing the truth; he loses full functionality for his device shortly thereafter frying Zoroark, who fries it back, and stumbles into another illusion, whereupon he falls unconscious after falling off a podium in the Boccer arena, believing the railing for his "airship" was a few feet further ahead. This trope kicks in the next morning, where he wakes up to hear aforementioned gloating broadcast to everyone in Crown City via his own TV network. That roar from Zoroark? A rough translation is "enjoy your ride on the Party Van, asshole!"
  • In Tiger and Bunny, Agnes and her crew combine this with Hoist by His Own Petard when they expose Maverick by broadcasting his monologue live on Hero TV, a program of his own media company which he was using up to that point to further his schemes.

Comic Books

  • In one Josie and the Pussy Cats story, the girls are singing for an animal preservation charity. After the rival boy band's leader sets them up by way of a fur coat, the girls pretend to be groupie journalists to get the guys back. They do, of course, and the boy band is thrown out and the Cats welcomed back with open arms.
    • Also done by Valerie in another Josie and the Pussycats story from the '70s, where she pretends to be helping a con man so she can get him to tell her about the scam and what suckers people are—she is wearing a wire and broadcasting this to the entire school.
  • The post-Zero Hour incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes spent an entire Arc building up to one of these, complete with the Legion's leader becoming Not Himself to ingratiate himself to the target, several Legionnaires faking their deaths, and one of the presumed-dead Legionnaires then impersonating a third party to take credit for the villain's schemes in order to prompt the Just Between You and Me moment, which was of course broadcast on live TV - all without cluing the reader in until The Reveal.
  • For a while Lex Luthor was President of the US (really!), and genuinely tried to protect the country (and Earth) from several of the cataclysms that occurred during his term. Then his hatred of Superman got the better of him and he tried, through a heavily convoluted and highly illegal scheme, to frame Superman for attempting to destroy the Earth by drawing an asteroid to Earth. It almost worked, until he ranted to Superman that he truly thought he was guilty, repeatedly admitting to playing the public like a flute and that he intended to teleport off planet (using Illegal Alien Technology from Darkseid) before the asteroid hit, leaving everyone else to die. Luckily, he didn't know Batman was taping the whole thing (in addition to, as Bruce Wayne, buying up all his assets so that he couldn't start over, or at least for a while).
    • Lex may be completely crazy, but he's not completely wrong The asteroid IS headed for Earth because of Superman; it contains his cousin, Supergirl. Supergirl's escape ship was following Superman's journey, but unfortunately came with a giant chunk of the planet Krypton attached. Luthor's crime here wasn't framing Superman, but leading a manhunt for the hero instead of simply asking for his help in destroying it.
    • Lex gets this a lot. In an Elseworld story, he gives the villain speech in front of Supergirl while Batgirl was broadcasting it live on network TV, destroying his reputation.
  • Mysterio starts out as a Villain with Good Publicity, but is foiled when he confesses everything to Spider-Man, who is holding a tape recorder.
  • The first arc of Scott McCloud's Zot ends with the titular hero interrupting the Evil Chancellor as he gives a live planet-wide broadcast about how their world's Holy War against Earth is going. The villain makes sure to turn off all the cameras before admitting to Zot that, yes, he killed the king, the queen, and his rivals, and engineered the war as a way of consolidating power—but then Zot reveals the tiny robot that's been following him around, which has video cameras for eyes and a built-in broadcast antenna. Guess what the robot's been doing?
  • Spider Jerusalem uses this against the President in Transmetropolitan. He purposely gets seen using a real gun (something that's out of character for him) earlier in the day, so that the increasingly unstable President will make very sure he's not armed, instead of making a cursory check guns and then checking for bugs.
  • This [dead link] Marvel Adventures comic has Captain America (comics) doing this to Loki over a live broadcast. It's really just admitting to jealousy, but this does result in Loki leaving in a huff.
  • Subverted in Y: The Last Man, when ex-cop turned brothel owner You confronts Epiphany, a Canadian pop star who's using her influence among teenage Japanese girls to recreate the Yakuza, and broadcasts her comment ("Those retarded Japanese fangirls worship me like a god!") to the guards outside. When informed of this Epiphany simply retorts: "Oh please! Those groupies already know I couldn't give two shits about them!"
  • In the Donald Duck comic "Outlanders" Donald, Scrooge, Huey-Dewey-Louie are teleported to a steampunk world, where Beagle Boys got the Money Bin, and sent alternate Scrooge to work in coal mine. He then takes his revenge by tricking them to confess how they did it, which was in fact broadcasted on a giant sheet.
  • The 'Crazy Eights' storyline in the Marvel Comics "Wonder Man" book. Eight newly superpowered friends of Wonder Man manage to record L.A's top security firm as really being a bunch of murderous thugs for hire. A violent chase ensues all over town, ending with a Hail Mary pass to a reporter acquaintance. Ironically, the reporter's view of costumed people tussling with the security firm just increases her curiosity to view the tape.
  • Raana Tey from Knights of the Old Republic falls victim to this when she gloats about the murder she participated in and framed the protagonist for in front of the sister of one her victims (who Raana had been manipulating). It doesn't end well for her. Partially subverted in that Zayne didn't really plan it.
  • Used in an issue of Doctor Strange, with Clea activating the crystal that Umar the Unrelenting used to make announcements to the public. It might have gone better if Umar hadn't drained the barrier that prevented the Mindless Ones from rampaging across the Dark Dimension; part of her power was drawn from popular support.
  • PS238 had a little surprise when Veles picked a bunch of superheroes for a ritual challenge in Pocket Dimension, but neglected to mention that it will be shown for the whole city to see (and record) via giant TV screen in the sky because hey, it's an important event. The ones who were arrogant jackasses… well, it "didn't do their images any favors". It's not like he bothered to spank those who were impolite to him, but he made them spank themselves.

Fan Works

  • Combined with Cassandra Truth in the Neon Genesis Evangelion fan fic The Boy Who Cried Yuri: Shinji overhears something he shouldn't have. When he tells Misato about it, she naturally dismisses him in the "eww, don't fantasize about your coworkers" way. Cue Shinji hiding in the locker room with a tape recorder... and getting The Take when Misato gets turned on and joins the action instead.
  • In the Harry Potter fic Time Enough, Harry makes a man confess his crimes to him in a pub. The guy gloats that "No one will ever believe you. You've got a room full of drunks as witnesses." Alas, Harry was prepared for such an occasion... That is, an Auror and a reporter (Ron and Luna) were sitting nearby, both perfectly sober.


  • In Antitrust, Milo is able to set up an elaborate satellite feed of Gary's company killing programmers and intending to create a monopoly.
  • Hollywood Homicide: K. C. Calden gets Wasley to confess to murder, then reveals that he has recorded it. [1]
  • The Saint: used in reverse. Simon Templar convinces the Russian president to confess to a fraudelent cold fusion project. After the president confesses in response to Ivan Tretiak’s accusations, the cold fusion machine works and destroy’s Tretiak’s credibility. [2]
  • The definitive example is in A Face in the Crowd. Political demagogue Andy Griffith has an official agenda for his adoring public but a more sinister agenda in private. When he starts to rave about this during a private conversation, Patricia Neal switches on the microphone so that Griffith's ravings are broadcasted.
  • Batman Returns had Batman pull one of these on a Villain with Good Publicity, the Penguin (I played this stinkin' city like a harp from Hell!).
    • Good idea, poor realization. Not only does it sound fake (would you believe a Batman that has been framed and discredited a while before?); Batman makes it surreal by scratching it. With a CD!
    • Batman just overrode the signal without giving provenance. The Penguin's voice is pretty much unmistakable, methinks. As for the record scratch, Rule of Funny.
    • I don't think the record scratch was audible on the other end.
  • Similarly, in Batman and Robin, Batman shows Mr Freeze that he didn't kill his wife by playing-back a video of Poison Ivy mouthing off about "As I said to Lady Freeze when I pulled her plug, this is a one-woman show!!" Hilarity Ensues (unfortunately off-screen) when Mr. Freeze later becomes Poison Ivy's cellmate at Arkham Asylum, as he (presumably) beats the living hell out of her.
  • In Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, Kevin recorded the "Sticky Bandits"' confessions with his toy tape recorder.
  • 16 Blocks uses the tape recorder variety, in which the protagonist plays back the words of a corrupt cop.
    • Also, in the alternate ending, the tape recorder is found and played by the DA after the protagonist is shot.
  • Colin Farrell's character in The Recruit uses his "Spartacus" program to transmit the gloating revelation Al Pacino's corrupt CIA agent to his superiors. Al Pacino emerges to find dozens of agents surrounding the building. However, in a subversion it turns out that Farrell was just bluffing, as the program wasn't able to get a signal. The agents still thought that he was the mole, and had arrived to capture him, not Pacino. However, Pacino believing they were here for him, delivers a rousing You Can't Handle the Truth speech and as a result is Hoist by His Own Petard. As the dozens of laser sights move from Farrell to him, he is given a moment to realize his error before committing Suicide by Cop.
  • One of the greatest examples of the Alpha Bitch, Courtney from Jawbreaker, spent the entire movie covering up her responsibility for a prank that got her friend killed. While holding a recordable greeting card, she says, "I killed the teen dream. Deal with it." Forgetting she had a finger on the recording button. One of her former pals discovers the card as she prepares to turn in for the night. Off she goes to deliver the goods. In the end, Courtney's recorded confession was spliced into the microphone as she gave her prom queen acceptance speech. And the Humiliation Conga begins.
  • In Star Trek VI, during Kirk's trial, an excerpt of his log entry saying "I have never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I've never been able to forgive them for the death of my boy." is shown as apparent proof of his motive behind Chancellor Gorkon's assassination. This fact is used later to implicate Lt. Valeris as a conspirator trying to sabotage Federation/Klingon peace talks.
  • Used to take down the villain in Big Fat Liar.
  • Brilliant subversion (or perhaps Double Subversion) in the Eddie Murphy political comedy The Distinguished Gentleman. Murphy's conman-turned-congressman is secretly trying to prove that a more senior congressman is taking kickbacks from a lobbyist in return for blocking an investigation into the relationship between power lines and cancer. He claims in a committee hearing to have videotaped a meeting between himself, the senior member, and the lobbyist. When they grab him and pull him into the meeting and demand to watch the tape, they discover its a bluff- it was just an ad for the phone sex business he used to own. Secure that they've dodged the bullet, they launch into discussing their Evil Plan-as he surreptitiously tapes the whole thing and then plays it for the media as soon as they go back into the hearing.
  • In the Norm MacDonald film Dirty Work, Norm's character uses his Note to Self tape recorder to nab a confession out of the bad guy at the end.
  • In the "Weird Al" Yankovic film UHF, an evil network executive goes on a tirade about how little the community means to him and how stupid he thinks its inhabitants are. Eventually this gets broadcast to the entire community in question in place of the important message that the executive intended to make.
    • Odd in that the opening line of the confession that we see earlier in the film (the rest is saved to be revealed later) and the full confession that we see later on are obviously from two different takes, since the line is delivered differently, the character is seated instead of standing, etc.
  • Done to the Man Behind the Man in Monsters, Inc.

Waternoose: I'll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die!

  • In Enemy of the State (1998), after the protagonists (Will Smith, Gene Hackman) have lost the original video record of a congressman's assassination ordered and overseen by the corrupt politician named Thomas Reynolds, senior advisor to the National Security Agency, they decide to bluff and try to trick him into incriminating himself during a meeting. Unfortunately, their plan of catching it on tape via a hidden mic fails, and they are captured by his goons. However, thinking he has won Reynolds then launches into a villain speech, confessing to the murder. Unbeknownst to Reynolds, one of his own NSA technical people gets cold feet and records the whole speech in their surveillance van, which is later used by the FBI as proof for the conspiracy to murder the congressman. Not that Reynolds cares anymore, because he's already dead at that point.
  • Subverted in Four Brothers; the adopted brothers, in their quest to avenge their murdered adopted mother, have to take down a dirty cop. The brother assigned to take down the cop goes to the cop's house and gets him to confess and pretends to be wired. Meanwhile, the girlfriends go to the police station and say that they're afraid that he's going to kill a cop. Cop cars show up at the dirty cop's house, he starts sweating and takes the brother hostage. The cops end up shooting him.
  • Pulled off by Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey in The Negotiator.
  • In The October Man, Mr. Peachy does one of these saying he is the murderer. No one is around to hear it, but it gives the hero enough incentive to prove it to the cops.
  • Played pretty much straight in PCU, except that the unintentional broadcast didn't reveal past wrongdoing so much as current bigotry.
  • Happens at the end of the French film Banlieue 13. The villain, however, only does it when threatened with a Karmic Death.
  • In the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo, Dantes meets Villefort in a bath house and turns up the steam, obscuring much of the room. He then gets Villefort to confess to his crimes, at which point the steam clears away revealing the authorities who have been standing there the whole time.
  • Played straight in RoboCop, when Corrupt Corporate Executive, Dick Jones, boasts of his many crimes in front of the titular hero. Of course, being part robot, Robocop visually records Jones' confession and plays it back for his bosses. Oops.
    • "His memory's admissible as evidence!"
  • The Well-Intentioned Extremist and Villain with Good Publicity Big Bad in Minority Report fell victim to this.
  • Jason Bourne pulled one on Ward Abbott in The Bourne Supremacy instead of killing him, which led to his suicide.
  • Parodied in Johnny English, where the protagonist accidentally switches the vital confession recording with candid footage of himself lipsynching to Abba in front of the bathroom mirror. In his underwear.
  • Played straight in the third Care Bears movie, Adventures in Wonderland, where the Big Bad goes into a rambling confession in public after being hit hard by a Care Bear Stare.
  • Happens in the finale of Gamer, right before he gets knifed in the gut.
  • In Max Keeble's Big Move, Max is called into the principal's office. The guy rants about he doesn't care about the school because he's using 97 percent of the money to build a big football stadium and about 1 percent for the school (2 percent is on breath spray). Max turns on the camera that the principal uses to make the morning announcements and the entire school is shown just how much of a slimeball their principal is. Needless to say, he gets fired.
  • Conventionally executed at the end of the Neill Marshall film Doomsday. The villain Canaris believes he's gotten away with everything, and explains his plan to heroine Eden Sinclair, and then returns to the control center and discovers that Sinclair recorded his confession and is having it broadcast to the world. We even see her setting her wrist device as she approaches the conversation with him.
  • Used in the Hey Arnold! movie.
  • In A Simple Plan, Jacob is forced to kill a man to protect the secret of the money he, his brother Hank, and his friend Lou found. When Lou starts to come between Hank and Jacob over the money, Hank secretly records Lou pretending to confess to the murder in order to maintain a hold on Lou, threatening to take it to the sheriff if Lou steps out of line.
  • Safety Patrol had the main characters expose that Scout Bozell was framed, and that it was the entire Safety Patrol and the lunchlady who were the true instigators of the fire by arranging for Weird Al Yankovic to sing the revelation with the tape being played throughout his concert. As soon as this was exposed, pretty much the entire Safety Patrol was fired, and Scout was reinstated with a new safety patrol team, and the Lunchlady was arrested partially for this reason.
  • In the second Mission: Impossible film, Vlad infects John McCloy with the Chimera virus, and will only give him the antidote if he confesses to leaking it. However, it's all a trick, and Vlad was really Ethan in disguise with a tape recorder hidden under his coat
  • Used to in the live action Yogi Bear movie when the corrupt Mayor Brown's attempt to dispose of an endangered turtle that's existence would stop his attempts to close Jellystone park. Turns out Boo Boo's bowtie camera (which previously in the film had been put on him for a nature documentary about him and Yogi) recorded Brown stating both this and how he doesn't care about Jellystone at all. The heroes then play it during his election promo, revealing what a slime ball he is to the entire city. To make matters worse, said turtle gets on stage at that very moment, confirming the confession. He and his Chief of Staff are arrested on the spot.
  • This is how Ernesto del la Cruz is defeated in Coco. Miguel's deceased aunts record the confrontation between Ernesto and the Rivera family where the entire Land of the Dead overhear the fact that Ernesto murdered Hector and stole his songs and then witness Ernesto throw Miguel to his supposed doom. Once he reaches the audience again, he's shocked to see everyone turn on him until he sees the entire thing recorded when Miguel is saved by Pepita. What Pepita does to Ernest afterwards is just icing on the cake.


  • In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident Briar Cugeon gloats about his plan to kill Opal Koboi as Foaly records the conversation on Artemis' computer.
    • Notable in that the whole thing doesn't get played at once. Select snippets of it are sent to the various people involved, one at a time, in various ways.
  • The Sherlock Holmes story The Dying Detective, in which a concealed Watson overhears the gloating of a villain who thinks he's given Holmes a fatal disease.
    • And again in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone, with a minor twist: Holmes didn't need the thieves to confess to stealing the missing diamond, as he had collected all the evidence he needed to convict before the story started. What he needed was to trick the thieves into saying where they had hidden it.
  • During Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Princess Leia gets to do this to Smug Snake Borsk Fey'lya - the ship they were in went to arrest Han, Luke, and Rogue Squadron, and when an Imperial Star Destroyer showed up and the Rogues started flying cover, Fey'lya's ship and escorts started to abandon them and flee, nominally to get back and warn the Republic. Leia goaded him into admitting that the only use soldiers could have to a politician was political power, and his political enemies were his enemies in truth - the people on his ship and flying as his escort were his most ardent supporters, fleeing and letting his 'enemies' die could only benefit him. His supporters promptly mutiny and turn back to save the others.
    • Naturally he does recover all power and prestige for other books, because he's not generally a villain per se - he's an Obstructive Bureaucrat who happens to be on the Alliance's side. While he takes advantage of, say, a suspicious new lump of money in his rival Admiral Ackbar's account, which seems to point back to the Empire, he doesn't arrange to put it there himself, so they can't just kick him out.
  • In The Sea of Monsters, the second book in the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series, Percy tricks Luke into confessing his crime of poisoning Thalia's tree to the entirety of Camp Half-Blood through an Iris-message, also proving Chiron's innocence.
  • In "Gone Too Far", a Transformers: TransTech text story, our heroes manage to use this to their advantage. It's unwise to admit you framed someone for murder when they're a communications 'bot who records everything they hear.
  • And in the Transformers: Shattered Glass story "Blitzwing Bop", Soundwave tricks Blaster into confessing a crime in front of a Cybertronian officer.
  • At the end of the Alina Adams mystery Death Drop, the heroine engineers a situation for the murderer to make a confession to a certain acquaintance of his with a reality TV show in a storeroom full of cameras; he didn't check to make sure none of them were on. Thanks to a waiver he'd signed earlier, it was not only an on-camera confession, but a court admissible one.
  • Averted in Seven Days in May—even with insurmountable evidence laid out before him, the antagonist never makes any explicit admission of guilt.
  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Dead and Gone, Burke manages to get the Big Bad to admit his planned duplicity while a gadget is transmitting his words to the mercenaries supposed to be guarding him.
  • In the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures novel The Dying Days the Doctor pulls off a truly epic one of these on the alien warlord who has taken over Britain and declared himself King. After tricking him into breathing in Helium Speech the Doctor then displays the whole conversation as a giant hologram in the sky with the villain's (squeaky) rant broadcast all over the world.

The Doctor: I think you've just made your abdication speech, Your Majesty.

  • At the end of Embedded, Lex Falk is able to talk Tedders into admitting everything about the alien artifact on the colony planet Eighty-Six, which is what the Bloc and SOMD armies are fighting over. Tedders admits this because Falk is in control of the body of Nestor Bloom, a SOMD soldier, and she feels that "Bloom" needs the whole story, even while the SOMD is trying to cover up the whole thing. She doesn't realize that Falk is there until he openly admits that everything that Bloom is seeing and hearing is being transmitted live to the various news agencies.
  • In one Star Trek: New Frontier novel, Captain Mackenzie Calhoun defeats an evil alien leader this way. In response to her attempt to extort him with the lives of Federation refugee hostages, he launched torpedoes at her world's capital city. Then he begs her to stand down and asks if she cares one bit about her people. She sneers "no". At the last second Calhoun aborts the attack. Calhoun promptly broadcasted a recording of the last few minutes across the planet—particularly the part with the villainess willing to gamble with the lives of her people. Almost immediately an angry mob tears her and her accomplices apart.

Live-Action TV

  • Most episodes of The Pretender ended with the Monster of the Week bad guy forced to confess under the same circumstances that he hurt or killed another person.
  • In the Dawsons Creek episode "Election", Pacey turns the school's PA on while Abby tells him, in a moment of private smugness, that the school is filled with idiots. She then loses the election.
  • The fourth-season The Dead Zone episode "Heroes & Demons" ends with an Engineered Public Confession in which the crooked cop's superiors are hiding just within earshot.
  • Done with Jesse's con man cousin in Full House.
  • Though not a villain, Liz Lemon on the Thirty Rock episode "The Aftermath" twice accidentally confesses her true opinion of other characters while being broadcasted, first on a microphone over the entire studio and then again over a closed-circuit television monitor. See Is This Thing Still On?.
  • In Season 5 of Twenty Four, President Charles Logan, responsible for the day's various murders and terrorist attacks, is taken hostage by Jack Bauer, who attempts to scare a confession out of him by threatening him with a gun. When that fails, Bauer is arrested, and President Logan returns to give a press conference. When his wife Martha goes hysterical with anger, the president takes her aside and threatens her, confessing to his involvement in the day's events while doing so. A few minutes later, much to Logan's surprise, it is revealed that Jack had placed a secret recording device on him while threatening him earlier, and his entire confession was recorded on it. Martha and Jack had planned this the entire time.
    • In Season 1 Keith Palmer gets in Carl's face and the latter threatens him. Later on it's revealed that Keith put the exchange on tape.
  • Subversion: Emmerdale has an episode where Adam holds Steph hostage after she gets him to admit to killing Terrence. Steph manages to convince Adam that she loves him and they should run away together. When Adam unties her, she makes a break for it and runs to the police to show them the secret recording she made of Adam's confession. But all that's on the tape is Adam's doctor's notes.
  • Also subverted in Coronation Street. Roy and Haley are trying to adopt an unhappy child but his abusive father won't let them take him without lots of cash exchanging hands. They try to trick him into confessing, but don't quite manage it. They hide the recorder under a newspaper and sit him next to it, then try to get him to remind them what the plot of the arc is. After a few hours he's fairly pissed off and wants them to get to the point of why they asked him to come over. Roy tries to pay him a meager sum in exchange for his signature on the papers. The guy freaks out, barking at them that he wants lots more money or they'll never see the kid, and how he'll get violent if they ever waste his time like this again. It's at this point that the recorder runs out of tape and makes a whirring noise. He finds it, smashes it, threatens them some more, and demands yet more money.
  • Knight Rider did this at least once, probably more. It helped that Michael's watch was a two-way radio for talking to KITT.
  • How many episodes of Murder, She Wrote or Remington Steele ended like this?
    • Jessica Fletcher would engineer this situation in almost every episode of Murder, She Wrote. As a murderer in one episode put it, "The detective in the wings? Mrs. Fletcher, how... cliche."
  • Happens a lot on Leverage, considering the Five-Man Band are Robin Hoods for hire. A prime example is the episode with the Iraq War vet: A congressman and the head of a Blackwater-style security company are basically using the Iraq war as a giant money laundering operation. The crew sends earlier proof of their collaboration the news outlets, and when reporters catch the two together they try to play it off as a secret plan to expose corruption. Cue the really incriminating conversation they had minutes earlier being sent to the reporters.
  • The second season of Phoenix Nights ends with the main character's Evil Counterpart Den Perry being subjected to an Engineered Public Confession, having attempted to sabotage the titular club on numerous occasions including burning it down.
  • A variation of this occurs on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko is ordered not to tell the Cardassians of the Klingon plan to invade them. To get around this, he has himself measured for a suit by the resident Cardassian spy/tailor whilst discussing the invasion plan with his senior staff.
  • In Primeval, when Christine has taken over the ARC, she's exposed when her rude remarks about the Minister are taped, and sent to him by Beckett, saving everyone's bacon, although earlier, Beckett had seemed to be Christine's loyal minion. It's hilarious!
  • In an episode of Just Shoot Me, Maya tries to expose Elliot's brother's fraud. She fails miserably.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Enemies," when Faith believes Buffy is tied up and Angel is his evil alter ego Angelus, she tells them about the Mayor's plans—only, Buffy isn't tied and Angel is still his soulful self.
    • In "Intervention" Spike tells his Buffy Sex Bot that he'd die before giving up Dawn to Glory, unaware that it's actually Buffy pretending to be the bot. Realising that Spike's Heel Face Turn is genuine earns him a kiss and Buffy's trust from then on.
  • In the season 4 finale of Babylon 5, Michael Garibaldi (and the other main characters) are recreated as illusions 500 years in the future to blacken their characters. Garibaldi's illusion then proceeds to hack into the system, broadcasting the discussion between him and the scientist who created the illusions into the aether, while convincing the scientist to explain their side's plans on the virtue of being an illusion. It was awesome.
    • Much earlier, in the season 1 episode "Eyes", Sinclair executes the psychic version of this trope by taunting EarthForce agent Ari ben-Zayn until his hatred and resentment of Sinclair (that was the motivation behind his investigation and attempted coup) was revealed to the telepath he brought with him, who then helped Sinclair, Ivanova and Garibaldi to take him down. It was also awesome.
  • Inverted in Clarissa Explains It All, while doing a science report on weekend of TV, her annoying brother, Ferguson, attempts to make her go insane. Clarissa and her pals find out about it, and she pays him back—by faking insane, but after removing batteries from Ferguson's tape recording.
  • A non-villain version was seen in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide when Crubbs revealed the school's policy of replacing (only) broken property, leading to a cacophony of teachers smashing old, obsolete equipment.
  • The pilot of Remington Steele has the heroes move a body from one room to another in a hotel. When the villain exclaims, "We left him in her room!" a door is opened to reveal a roomful of cops next door.
  • Burn Notice: in "Bad Blood", a guy embezzling from a rap mogul shows up to kill someone who knows too much, but not before bragging about how clever his scheme was. Then it turns out the gun, which Michael gave him, was full of blanks, and the rap mogul is in the next room.
  • Veronica Mars does this in the episode "Like a Virgin." Veronica gets the culprit to confess near her locker, then opens the locker to reveal a video camera; she then has the tape played during a television program broadcast to the entire school.
  • In The Bold And The Beautiful, Rick rubs in his brother Ridge's face how his marriage to his daughter (Steffy) was a revenge plot against Ridge. And all the while, Ridge is recording the conversation and later plays it to Steffy who then breaks up with Rick.
  • Happens frequently on Law and Order. David Cross famously got in hot water for badmouthing his own guest role on L&O and the somewhat lazy writing—leading to severely constrained opportunities for acting—of having the villain just break down and confess everything to the cops after a few prods.
  • This was just another trope for Mission: Impossible.
  • Mocked hilariously on Saturday Night Live during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Linda Tripp (Played by John Goodman!) is wearing an Incredibly Obvious Bug and trying desperately to get Monica to confess to sex with Bill Clinton, but she keeps changing the subject.

Tripp: "Speak into the flower, dear."

  • Vanessa does this to Blair on Gossip Girl in Enough About Eve.
  • In Torchwood: Children of Earth, Torchwood record a meeting of the British cabinet in which they decide to give the 456 ten percent of the children and agree on the way to select the ten percent. They then blackmail the government using this: either the government let Torchwood deal with the 456, or the information will be released to the public. The government do as they're told, but later yet, it is implied that further damning information will indeed be made public.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Day of the Moon", the Doctor and friends pull a variety of this on the Silence. "You tend to my wounds. You are foolish. You should kill us all on sight!" rants a wounded Silent. The last sentence is later replayed as one of these right across the world, reinterpreted as a hypnotic command. The humans do as they're told.
  • A variation takes place in The Twilight Zone episode "The Obsolete Man". When Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) was sentenced to death by the totalitarian State for "obsolescence" (i.e. collecting books and professing his belief in God in a world where both books and religion are outlawed), he requested that his death be administered by a time bomb and that his death be televised. When the judge who sentenced him visited him before his execution to gloat, Wordsworth secretly locked him inside with him, so the judge would be executed with him. Seconds before the bomb went off, the judge cracked:

Judge: In God's name, let me out!
Wordsworth: Yes. In God's name, I will let you out. (The judge survived, but was now brought up on charges of obsolescence for begging for his life "in God's Name")

  • Parodied in The Thin Blue Line, where the chief admits to Raymond Fowler that he faked some evidence. Raymond the triumphantly pulls out a rather large tape recorder from his pocket. But when he tries to play the confession, the tape just runs the workout-training that used to be on the tape. Another policeman then shows that you have to press both record and play at the same time to start recording, "I don't know why either". As an added bonus, the recorder is turned on during that demonstration, resulting in it recording some fierce Innocent Innuendo between Raymond and his ex-girlfriend. And the tape belonged to Raymond's wife, and she uses it for her workout at the end of the episode....
  • On Desperate Housewives, Tom's evil love child Kayla gets Lynette arrested by burning herself and calling Children's Protective Services, saying that Lynette did it. Kayla confesses to Tom about it, but says that she's going to keep lying to everyone else. Tom then reveals that his cell phone has been on the whole time, and the family's psychiatrist has heard the whole thing.
  • Mama does this on Mama's Family to Naomi's boss who was sexually harassing her. While he's bragging to Mama in his office about how he "bagged every good-looking checker in the Tri-State Area," Mama turns on the store's PA system, letting his confession be heard by all the employees and customers.
  • On Chuck, Magnificent Bastard Daniel Shaw is a good way toward taking over the CIA and has already made all the heroes look insane or murderous. Chuck sneaks into his private office during a meeting of agencies from all over the world, and makes Shaw think his big plan was tricking Shaw into alerting the leaders of the evil organization The Ring, getting them to leave the conference and thus reveal themselves. Shaw points out that they're still considered outlaws who no one will listen to, and Chuck goads him into gloating about being a Ring agent, plus murdering Chuck's father. Then Chuck reveals that their whole conversation has been broadcast to everyone at the conference.
  • On NCIS, Ziva gets a suspect to confess that she is Iranian intelligence by letting her think she is beating Ziva up. Ziva was wearing a mic and got the confession on tape.
  • In the Season 9 finale of Smallville, Clark manages to turn Zod's followers on him by tricking him into confessing that he killed his lover Faora and their unborn child, an act he had previously blamed on Clark and the humans. Apparently, Zod forgot that his followers all had super hearing.
  • Subverted in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Meets the Godfather", where Monk attempted to extract a confession out of the killer (a man who stole five double headed pennies from the U.S. Mint) for the FBI to hear (he was wearing a tie that contained a bug), but the confession did not come through due to the bug being damaged (Monk had the tie drycleaned due to a stain he accidentally got on the tie during an attempted sting on the Mafiosos for attempting to attack a gang earlier).
    • A Double Subversion occurs during the episode "Mr. Monk Is On the Run Part 2". Natalie attempts to record Dale the Whale's confession on tape, but he knew long before she attempted to do so that she was going to try that, and did not confirm that he was attempting to frame Monk. However, he did tell her to record his message to Monk about switching places with him... and invoked the trope on himself anyways by having her record while his computer was on a weather map on Riverton, causing Monk to deduce exactly what Dale was planning.
  • In an episode of Andromeda, Dylan Hunt is accused of murder. He finds out he was framed by people he has never met before. He then tracks down the last one, who laments losing his friends but brags about framing Hunt. Hunt, of course, is keeping his Comm Links channel open for Rommie to record and broadcast to the authorities.
  • In the Magnum, P.I. episode "The Curse of the King Kamehameha Club", Thomas Magnum does this to an unscrupulous TV reporter with her video camera.
  • Starsky and Hutch force two FBI agents to confess that they've been trying to unofficially intimidate S&H into backing off of a case. When the door swings open to reveal their boss has been listening in, he is not best pleased.
  • The Castle episode "Demons" plays this entirely straight: Castle and Beckett confront the Murderer of the Week by themselves in a spooky old mansion, the murderer gets the upper hand, tells them everything because he's going to kill them anyway, and then they tell him they set up a recording device in the room and cops were waiting right outside the whole time.
    • This is (at least) the second time Castle has employed this trope. The previous was only two episodes prior. Ryan wired up the youngest kid in a crime family and had him try to get a confession out of his brother for killing his tutor. He gets it, with his brother pointing a gun at him. Cops bust in, and the kid gets shot. He's not quite dead. The shooting was a ruse to get the kid into protective custody.
  • Used by Patrick Jane in The Mentalist against another 'psychic' to get him to leave a woman alone.
  • Once Per Episode in Perry Mason, when he gets the actual culprit to confess on the witness stand. Played With in the the culprit knows he's being listened to, but confesses anyway.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Dead Air", Phryne confronts a murderer in a radio studio. She switches on the microphone so that the killer's confession is broadcast live.


  • In the finale of Old Harrys Game Season 6, Satan engineers Rosemary's confession to Edith's murder ... live on Radio 4's Today programme.


  • The Infocom Interactive Fiction Adventure Game A Mind Forever Voyaging ends this way.
  • Also appears in the LucasArts Adventure Game Full Throttle.
  • The end of Wing Commander IV is an interactive fiction segment where you must trick the Big Bad into forgetting about the crowd in front of him and doing this.
  • Policenauts. Full stop.
  • Pecker managed to do this to Mizo at the end of Jak X: Combat Racing, using one of the floating cameras that came with his job as race commentator.
  • Ace Attorney - In the final case of the fourth game (the one with Apollo Justice as the lawyer) you put all of the clues together and they point to Kristoph Gavin, who gloats because he doesn't believe the evidence to be strong enough for the Judge to convict him...then he's reminded that his trial is the first one in which a jury gets to determine his guilt or innocence, cuing the start of a Villainous Breakdown as he rants, raves, and insults the members of the jury...who are all watching, live.
  • Fallout: should you want to help Killian Darkwater in Junktown to gather evidences on Gizmo, you could offer your services to Gizmo as an assassin to kill Killian. While wearing a hidden tape recorder on you of course! And coming back with the evidence.
  • This Engineered Public Confession was brought to you by Raynor's Raiders.

"...these shocking revelations..." "...veritable firestorm of anti-Mengsk sentiment..."
Donny Vermillion: The Emperor held a press conference earlier today.
"Emperor, how do you respond to these allegations of genocide?! Of using aliens to-"
Arcturus: I assure you these slanderous attacks against the throne are baseless and irresponsible!
Kate Lockwell: Emperor, do you still stand by the sentiment that selfless devotion to the people is the basis of your rule?
Arcturus: But of course. I was called upon to serve the greater interests of humanity! Personal power was never my goal.
Kate Lockwell: Then how would you characterize this statement? *click*
Recording: "I will not be stopped. Not by you or the Confederates or the protoss or anyone! I will rule this sector or see it burnt to ashes around me!"
*multiple camera flashes almost blind Arcturus Mengsk*
Arcturus: I-I won't stand for this... do you jackals think you can come in here and question me?! THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER! *pushes interview booth, walks away*

  • Subverted in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty's in-game novel: In the Darkness of Shadow Moses: The Unofficial Truth. Nastasha Romanenko and Richard Ames kept Snake's Codec on at all times for them to observe the mission, as well as recording various Codec conversations, including Master Miller/Liquid Snake's conversations with Snake. However, Liquid later reveals to them that he actually knew all along that they were recording everything he and the others stated, yet allowed it to happen anyways.


Western Animation

  • Teamo Supremo: The team exposes a pop singer's anti-individuality stance as being created by her producer at her concert, by showing the concert-goers the producer saying so to the singer.
  • Deliberately inverting this trope with a confession she knew would be overheard by the Secret Police is how Dangerously Genre Savvy Azula of Avatar: The Last Airbender wormed her way into Long Feng's trust. Too bad for him that what she confessed was only half her plan.
  • In the Futurama episode "A Head in the Polls", Richard Nixon rants about his plans for Earth after he is elected—in front of Bender, a robot with a tape recorder in his head. Nixon still won the election.
    • Spoofed in the same episode in that Bender is more interested in blackmailing him with the 'I'll go into people's houses at night and wreck up the place' than 'I'll sell our children's organs for drug money'.
    • May not count, since the tape was never made public. They gave it to Nixon in exchange for Bender's body.
  • An episode of The Fairly OddParents has Timmy proving to the authorities that assign fairy godparents that Vicky (who had taken Cosmo and Wanda from him) was happy (and thus no longer needed the two) with a tape recorder.
    • A MANIPULATED tape recorder, at that. One side is her talking, the other is a faked voice. When she protests the fake voice, he reveals he recorded her protest. Probably counts as Karmic Death, as Vicky used the same trick earlier.
    • Another episode has Vicky and Timmy trying to frame each other over the use of a special voice-changing microphone and a pirate radio station. Timmy had been using the microphone to manipulate the town's parents into spending more time with their kids. When pissed-off FCC agents show up, Timmy simply raises the microphone to Vicky while she rants, causing the agents to believe she ran the illegal radio station. Jail time!
      • Vicky wasn't arrested for running the illegal radio station. She was arrested for saying the word "moron" in radio, which she was really guilty of. You can't say "moron" in radio, only in television.
  • In a variation, an episode of Superman: The Animated Series had Lois tricking a crooked cop to confess to framing a man on death row for his murder... with Superman right outside, using his super-hearing to get every detail.
  • An episode of The Galaxy Trio had the self-proclaimed emperor Lotar being taken down this way.
  • An episode of Codename: Kids Next Door had the Delightful Children as the class president for an Evil Plan They say this plan out loud and look out the balcony to see the students looking angrily at them. The Delightful Children then turn around to see that Numbah One had the PA button held down the whole time.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Almost Got Him," Batman finally reveals himself to the supervillains he has been listening to in a bar as Croc in disguise. They aim their weapons and note he's never getting out of the bar alive. However, seemingly every other patron and staff of the bar produces a weapon; they were actually all cops in disguise, including Commissioner Gordon and Det. Harvey Bullock, and were waiting for Batman to give the signal to arrest them once Joker blabbed about where he was keep Catwoman hostage.
    • "I threw a rock at him!"
      • "It was a big rock."
    • In a later episode introducing Bane into the animated universe, Batman does this at the end. Not as part of the overall story, but rather as a Take That to Rupert Thorne that his Girl Friday wasn't altogether trustworthy.

Batman: It's a new release. Maybe we'll call it, "Better Luck Next Time".

    • In "Riddler's Reform", Batman had just escaped a death trap set by Riddler, who's desperate to learn how he escaped. Desperate enough to offer to confess his crimes. Rather than accepting the deal, Batman revealed that he had tricked Riddler into broadcasting the confession. Batman gets bonus points for using the same trick Riddler had previously used to humiliate him and a device Riddler invented.
  • In Mona the Vampire, the blond, villainous girl goes over the heroes with a metal detector (finding two tape recorders) before telling them all about the Evil Plan. Unfortunately for her, she forgot to check the cat.
  • An episode of Justice League began with a triumphant Kryptonite-wielding Lex Luthor standing over the fallen Superman. Lex confesses to smuggling weapons and selling them to terrorists. Turns out it wasn't really Superman, but J'onn J'onzz in disguise, and Batman and Green Lantern have been listening the whole time. Whoops.
  • In the thirteenth season premiere of South Park, Kyle turns on the microphone backstage at a Jonas Brothers concert, causing a live world-broadcast of the confession of a long-term plan to exploit the purported myopia of devout Christians by secretly selling sex to girls under the guise of good, clean, family-friendly entertainment. And just for that extra South Park kick, the person he engineers this confession from is Mickey Mouse.
    • Didn't quite work, as Mickey was so powerfully homicidal that the world just knuckled under to him, waiting until his rage was spent and he went back to sleep.
  • Spoofed in Drawn Together. Spanky Ham and Captain Hero were abusing a superhero-versus-villain gambling book, with Spanky Ham betting thousands of dollars for the monster and Captain Hero deliberately failing very miserably, when Captain Hero was overcome by greed and decided to do it himself. Spanky Ham then retaliates by recording Captain Hero confessing his actions... with an incredibly obvious recorder hanging from his neck and asking the most revealing questions he could think of.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command does this to Guzelian, who revealed that he tricked everyone into making peace with each other so that he could attack them both.
  • Done in Fillmore! to the corrupt chief commissioner in "South of Friendship, North of Honor."
    • Made even better in that his father is the Principal, meaning that his troubles are just starting.
  • In one episode of Gargoyles, Elisa tries this on Fox in order to prove to her brother Derek that Xanatos is up to no good as usual. Fox gloats about Xanatos having trapped Derek, and that there was nothing Elisa could do about it. Elisa had the whole thing recorded and had intended to play it all for Derek, but then decided to just give him the recording and let him play it on his own. He didn't.
  • Variation in Transformers Animated. Starscream tells the Autobots that it was him, not them, that offlined Megatron... not knowing that he was being filmed by news drones. When Megatron came back online, he saw the news broadcast of Starscream's gloating
  • Garfield and Friends did a variation: When Jon was questioning the head of the monstromarket store about the expensive prices for eggs, the boss admits that he deliberately made the items more expensive as a means of making himself filthy rich. Unbeknownst to him, Garfield, who he had earlier chased in the episode, used one of his store microphones to broadcast everything he said to Jon throughout the whole store. Needless to say, the customers immediately leave the store, and it is implied that his store is going to go out of business.
  • This is how Spyke gets Quicksilver in jail in their introductory episode of X-Men: Evolution.
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Terry gives the police the sound byte of Jordan Pryce telling the Jokerz that he gave them the security codes in exchange for hiring them to kill/ice Bruce Wayne.
    • A variation occurred in the Batman Beyond episode Ascension, Derek Powers intended to "retire" and place his son as his replacement so he could act behind the scenes. Unfortunately for him, his son had other plans. Basically, his son engineered a media circus with complaints about his polluting his stationed country's water supply, getting his father angry enough to disintegrate the skin grafts used to contain his mutated form, Blight, on live TV, which meant they now know who the radioactive guy who was committing various crimes was, including Terry McGuiness.
  • In Rugrats, Angelica Pickles, namely due to not liking Chinese Food and wanting other things, used a prototype voice changer that her uncle invented to get several things, such as sweets, a Cynthia dollhouse (that her father promised to get if she was well behaved), and a faux surprise party for her. When Tommy's parents came home, they were about to take away the grampa's teeth (as they threatened to do so if he didn't supervise the kids), Angelica attempts to quell it, with Tommy activating the voice changer and placing it right near her mouth while she is speaking, causing them to realize just how Angelica managed to trick them big time. Needless to say, she has to eat the stuff she ordered as her punishment, and her uncle puts away the voice changer in a dark cupboard, stating that some things were better off not being invented.
    • In another episode, Angelica, while backstage at her favorite kids show, was nominated as one of the new on-stage kids, and she and the other nominees listened in on the show host's conversation with her second-in-command, about her audience, and she overheard her say the secret word, and was the only one who actually heard it. She then won, and she also thought she won due to hearing the secret word (which is implied to be a very, very dirty cussword, due to various placements of cutoffs with a person honking his horn or someone jackhammering, or in the case of her repeating the word to her mom, a very loud anguished scream being heard in the distance), her parents, after initially grounding her, eventually allow her to go to the backstage showing of the show, under the condition that she not say the word. In her usual manners, she manages to trick the show hostess by making her lose control of her temper to utter that exact swear word on the air, to the shock of all watching, and Angelica then states that she proved that she did actually say it. The show hostess was later fired, and replaced with her second in command.
  • Family Guy in the episode "One If By Clam, Two If By Sea". Lois tries to uncover insurance fraud by hiding her friends in the room and getting the villain to confess. He does and the friends aren't there. 'Sandord and Son' actor Demond Wilson is, but apparently he didn't count. Fortunately the insurance agent was hiding in the closet for some reason.
    • He was there with Demond.
  • Spoofed in an episode of American Dad, where school announcement readers getting Drunk with Power, tricked into making an Engineered Public Confession, and losing their position is apparently a regular occurrence.
    • Each one lasts even less time than his predecessor: Steve goes through this in a few days, then his friend Snot goes through it in one day, then their friend Barry snaps the second he sits down at the desk. And then the principal talks about his time as a cocaine dealer who had sex with little girls mere moments after kicking Barry out.
  • The New Adventures of Superman episode "The Prankster". Superman knows that the Prankster has committed two counts of disturbing the peace but can't legally prove it (no witnesses or other evidence). He pulls multiple pranks on the Prankster and gets him so angry that he confesses to the crimes, after which Superman pulls out a microphone and tape recorder that he used to get the confession Caught on Tape.
  • The Mask had an episode where Peggy tricked a southern Colonel into confessing illegal toxic waste dumping without knowing the confession was being displayed.
  • Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: Tweety engineers one in "Double Take", hovering over the bad guy's head with a microphone as he blabs his plan to Sylvester.
  • A reversed example of this (as in, the villain doing it to the - alleged - hero) occurs in Harley Quinn; Harley captures Robin (who is Damien Wayne in this version, and something of a brat) suspends him over a shark tank (the shark in question being Harley's ally Killer Shark) threatening to dunk him unless he confesses to lying about his claims that he fought and defeated Harley and that she is his "nemesis". Robin refuses, claiming he is "Gotham's sweet potato pie and those rubes will believe anything I say!" Then a curtain is pulled back revealing a studio audience and Tawny Young broadcasting the whole thing, not only exposing his lies but proving Harley could have killed him any time she wanted. What's worse - for Robin - the humiliation causes his nose to bleed and the blood to hit the water, causing Killer Shark to go berserk and make a lunge for him, requiring Harley to reluctantly save him and humiliating him even more.

Real Life

  • Often, whenever a public figure or celebrity decides to confess to committing an action, it is only because someone else has discovered it and is about to release the details. A prime example is Tom MacMaster, who decided to reveal that his blog A Gay Girl in Damascus was a fraud only after his identity was uncovered by Electronic Intifada.
  • Roger Clemens tried to do this by secretly taping a phone conversation between former trainer Brian Mcnamee so that he would admit that Clemens did not take HGH; all it proved was that Mcnamee was either telling the truth, or not a complete idiot.
  • Former Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány held a private speech telling his own colleagues that they had lied to the people about the state of the country in order to win the elections, and how they "fucked up" and needed to get themselves together to make things work again. The speech was recorded, leaked, and hell pretty much broke loose.
  • A recording of (former) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was leaked. In it, he discussed his plan to sell the Senate seat vacated by newly-elected President Obama to the highest bidder. Later, he would apologize for swearing so violently in the tape. He would eventually be convicted of (among many other things) misuse of power and corruption.
  • Linda Tripp, as stated above, taped Lewinsky's confession. Though she caught a lot of flack for it, it should be noted that a previous Clinton mistress had confided in Tripp and when Tripp had to go public with it, she was smeared in the press, and poked fun at with regard to her weight as in the later example because it was her word against the president's. Call it Crazy Prepared, but it's not that crazy under the circumstances.
  • Hugh Grant helped bring down the News of the World by secretly recording a meeting with one of their former paparazzos, who spilt the beans about the phone hacking affair. Doubles as a Take That and a Crowning Moment of Awesome for all the stick the British tabloids have given him.
  • Wiki Leaks and Anonymous seek to be the Internet version of this. In fact, the HB Gary Federal leak is a fitting example.
  • The "Teapot Tapes" in New Zealand. Ironically the politicians at the centre of it have accused the media of "News of the World"-style tactics. Initially it wasn't completely played straight - the tapes are in the hands of the police after the initial controversy, and the cameraman who made the original recording is fighting for his reputation and bank balance in the courts. In early 2012, however, it was subsequently inverted when the recording was leaked onto the Internet.
  • Emma West.
  • Also, Tennessee radio talk show host Thaddeus Matthews made racist as well as rude comments towards one of his guests, all caught on tape.
  • The British Holocaust denier David Irving holds the unusual achievement of self-Engineering his confession. When the Jewish-American historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote in her book Denying the Holocaust that he was a holocaust denier and had deliberately falsified historical evidence, he sued her for libel. Unfortunately, Lipstadt's lawyers asked Richard J. Evans, one of the finest historians in Britain (if not the whole world) and a team of experts to go through Irving's work with a fine-tooth comb and found that it was patently obvious that he had lied and cheated in order to show Nazism in a better light. At the end of a humiliating trial (ironic, because Irving had hoped to humiliate and financially ruin Lipstadt by suing her in the first place), he accidentally addressed the judge as "Mein Fuehrer." Hilarity, and a well-deserved comeuppance, ensued.