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The character with a Small Name, Big Ego is the focus of the episode, and in the end his pretensions and facades are broken down to reveal a usually insecure and hurt individual—or in some cases, a truly caring person who hides behind his behaviour because he is unable to express love/affection.

Usually, the last thing the character does at the end of the episode is restore his full character, so the viewer can go back to seeing him in the same stock way, but with an added understanding of the character's hidden depth.

Examples of Big Ego, Hidden Depths include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Behind his gruff, skinflint exterior, Marvel has established that J. Jonah Jameson's hatred of Spider-Man stems from the fact that deep down, he knows Spidey is a selfless hero, and the fact that he can't compare makes him jealous.
    • Notably, this close-up first happened towards the end of Amazing Spider-Man #1. I.e., he got his Big Ego, Hidden Depths in the issue he was introduced.
      • In the storyline Spider Island, JJ (like most of New York) temporarily gained spider-powers; he used them to help Spidey out in one fight, and at the end of the storyline he lights the windows of the Empire State Building in red and blue as a grudging "thank you".
    • In one of his animated appearances, he argued that if Spider-Man was really a hero, he wouldn't need to hide his face with a mask—and backed this up by going out on the streets himself to track down a story.


  • Randal's suddenly dramatic and heartfelt monologue at the climax of Clerks II.

Live Action TV

  • Almost every episode of Home Improvement.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati, '"Put Up Or Shut Up": Bailey convinces Jennifer to accept a date with Herb in the hope that he'll get scared and back down.
    • Lampshaded in the "Real Families" episode, where Herb signs his family up for the eponymous Show Within a Show, and completely fails to make them look good.
  • This happened every once in a while with Alex on Family Ties.
  • Dan Fielding on Night Court got the treatment a couple times.
  • Similarly Charlie on Empty Nest.
  • Ditto Bulldog in Frasier.
  • Kirk on Dear John.
  • Whenever the Ferengi are featured in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Usually, Quark is the Small Name, Big Ego of the episode.
  • In Scrubs, Dr. Kelso's "His Story" episode was used as an opportunity to explore some of the softer sides of the character, ending with his character deciding that he was meant to be hated, and was satisfied with his place in the world.
  • Several episodes of the US version of The Office have been dedicated to the fact that Michael Scott is really a sympathetic, nice guy.
    • Also, he's actually a phenomenal salesman... it's just that these skills don't translate well into his managerial position.
  • The earlier Sawyer-centric Lost episodes fit, before Character Development made them moot.
  • Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Also a former Trope Namer. (Ted Baxter Close Up) This came about a couple of years after MTM became a success, and Ted Knight became concerned about Baxter becoming a one-dimensional buffoon. As such, the Ted Baxter character soon gained morals, got married and had a family ... all while his on-air buffoonery and over-the-top delivery was de-emphasized and his desire to be the best newscaster (despite his inherent lack of skill) was shown to be driven by more than his inflated ego.
  • The episode of Taxi in which Louie loses his job after peeking at Elaine through a hole in the lady's room.
  • Happens often on The Colbert Report, and usually results in the character talking himself out of it: "Snap out of it, Colbert!"
  • The Sixth Doctor's run on Doctor Who, although it didn't go as long or as far as Colin Baker had hoped.
  • Charles on Mash is usually the character that gets this treatment. Examples range from secretly giving candy to the orphanage on Christmas to sitting up with Hawkeye when his father is undergoing surgery back in the states to having an emotional meltdown when the Chinese PO Ws he was teaching Mozart to got killed.

Video Games

  • A few fan animations starring Cirno from Touhou. Chiruno Chiruno Chiruno...

Western Animation

  • An episode of Family Guy (where Peter gets amnesia) featured this with Quagmire, where after flirting with Lois after Peter dumps her, he gets her into bed, only for her to reveal that she likes Quagmire and feels like she can trust him. This causes him to have a played-with close-up, culminating in an Overly Long Gag of him going through increasingly painful and absurd attempts to get himself erect again.
  • The Futurama episode "In-a-Gadda-da-Leela" seems to be this for Zapp, when he's shown to be kind and caring towards Leela (in his own inept way) when she's stuck under a log and it appears that they're the last two humans alive. Subverted near the end, when every last good thing he's done in the episode is peeled back to be part of a charade to get back into her pants, even going as far as to show that he trapped her under the log and also managed to make an elaborate hoax of Earth's destruction.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, three of the four main characters undergo this trope: Omi, the truest Small Name, Big Ego of the show; Raimundo, the Brilliant but Lazy Jerk with a Heart of Gold; and Kimiko, the Tsundere with the Hair-Trigger Temper.
    • Many episodes (particularly ones where the Xiaolin Dragons have strained relations) suggest that Omi fears being alone and believes that if he is perfect, he will be surrounded by adulating friends and admirers
    • As shown during the events leading to his betrayal, Rai becomes angry whenever he feels helpless or inadequate. It's straight-up stated in "Dream Stalker" that his lazy, jerk-ish attitude results from his fear of not being good enough and letting others down.
    • And as early as the third episode, it's revealed that Kimiko deeply fears needing others' help and wants to prove that she can keep up with the boys.
  • Lance from Voltron: Legendary Defender is shown to be this in the latter half of season 2, where he laments that despite his self-proclaimed title of Sharpshooter, he really doesn't feel like he brings anything special to the team compared to the others. His insecurity is further explored the following season when the presumed-dead Shiro returns and he thinks that the team won't need him anymore: He assumes the Black Lion will reclaim Shiro, Keith will get Red back, and he doesn't want to take Blue back from Allura when she's doing so well as a Paladin.

Real Life

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