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Sometimes, the police simply are not going to stop investigating a crime until they find someone to arrest. In this case, even if you've pulled off The Perfect Crime, the only way to be certain of getting away with it is by setting up some other sap to take the fall for you.
Sometimes the Fall Guy is an accomplice who takes on this scapegoat role willingly. Other times, when you have drawn up plans with the brilliant clockwork evil of The Chessmaster, you might choose a Fall Guy--whether an accomplice of yours, or someone completely innocent--by tricking this Unwitting Pawn into taking the blame.
Maybe you choose the guy no one's going to believe. Better yet, you choose a well-meaning sap whose fears and goals you've been able to manipulate via Flaw Exploitation. Alternately, you could pull off a Deceased Fall Guy Gambit, since a dead man can't defend himself.
Not to be confused with a television series.
- In the finale of The Maltese Falcon, as Sam Spade is negotiating the terms for handing over the Falcon, one of his conditions is that someone needs to take the fall for the murder of his partner (since the police suspected Spade himself of having done the deed).
- Calvin and Hobbes: In one "Tracer Bullet" story, Calvin's mom drags Calvin into the living room and tells him to explain how the end table got knocked over. Calvin re-imagines the events as his private detective alter ego, Tracer Bullet, getting hired to unwittingly serve as the fall guy for this particular crime.
Tracer Bullet: The dame had set me up! She didn't want me to solve the case at all! She just wanted a patsy to pin the crime on!
- Following: Cobb knows he's the prime suspect in the murder of an elderly woman, so he sets up the unnamed protagonist to take the fall for it. Or does he?
- In Persepolis, in order to avoid being arrested by the Guardians of the Revolution for wearing makeup in public, Marjane focuses their attention elsewhere by accusing a man who happened to be nearby of saying "something indecent" to her. (Later, Marjane's grandmother calls her out on this.)
- Sidney Glass (formerly the Magic Mirror) does this for Regina in Once Upon a Time, admitting to kidnapping Katherine and going to jail. The town sheriff realizes it's total bull, but the true culprit is virtually untouchable.