Created By: forgottenlord on August 1, 2012 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on March 27, 2013
Troped

Not So Final Confession

You're about to die, you get one last thing off your chest, but you end up surviving

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
When death is upon you, sometimes you have a burning need to get something off your chest. Something that embarrassment or social stigma has prevented you from saying. Perhaps you want to come out of the closet, or admit your undying love to the person you can never have, or rant about how stupid everyone around you is. Regardless, no sooner do you make it known than you find out that, no, you're not going to die today.

Often, but not always, a comedy trope. When Played for Comedy, the more embarrassing the secret, the higher the probability that you'll survive.

If someone is instead admitting something they've wanted to admit but couldn't and would rather survive the upcoming danger, it's If We Get Through This. Can be a subversion of many of the Death Tropes. Compare Crossing the Burnt Bridge


Examples

Fan Fic
  • An Entry with a Bang has a man confessing his love and proposing to a girl while they expect a nuke to hit their Dropship. She accepts... then it turns out Earth only had time to put warheads on half the missiles. Oh, and he proposed in front of the entire bridge crew.

Film
  • In Kind Hearts and Coronets, Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini has been sentenced to death for the one murder that he didn't commit. While awaiting execution, he writes his memoirs in which he confesses to all of the murders that he did commit (every D'Ascoyne ahead of him in the line of succession to a duchy). Just before his hanging, exonerating evidence is discovered and he is pardoned. However, his realization that he has left the manuscript of his memoirs with the confessions to the murders of his family in his prison cell may make this example a subversion...

Literature
  • In The Belgariad, Adara is shot with an arrow and believes herself to be dying. When Hettar appears by her bedside, she confesses her love for him, only to be told soon afterwards that she's fine.
  • This is how the plot of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novel The Confession of Brother Haluin begins. After being horribly injured in an accident the eponymous Haluin makes his confession to Abbot Radulfus and Cadfael. After he makes a miraculous recovery, Haluin decides that his 'deathbed' confession is no longer sufficient and insists on doing penance as soon as he is fit enough to walk (or rather hobble).
  • Sword Art Online: Kirito and Asuna, after dying in SAO believe they will be Killed Off for Real, and thus reveal their real-world names and ages. Kirito wakes up realizing that while he "died" in game, the Nerve Gear did not kill him. He eventually finds Asuna in the real world.

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow and Xander share a passionate kiss when they think they're going to be killed by Spike - only to be interrupted by their rescuers who happened to be their respective significant others.
  • Seinfeld: In the first part of the two part finale, as the plane crashes, several secrets come out; most importantly, George cheated in The Contest.
  • In an episode of Father Ted, a group of priests are aboard a plane that seems set to crash. One priest makes a confession of love to the priest sitting next to him. After the plane is saved, the episode ends with a long, silent shot of the awkward looks on both their faces.
  • Red Dwarf: Rimmer creates a copy of himself and, following an extreme case of Other Me Annoys Me, everyone agrees that one of the Rimmers has got to go. Lister persuades the unlucky Rimmer to tell him his embarrassing secret about gazpacho soup before the procedure - then reveals that he's already erased the other Rimmer.
  • The Closer: A man involved in a serious car crash is administered last rites by a priest and confesses murdering his wife, only to survive. Even though the priest keeps the man's secret, the man murders the priest a few months later in fear that the priest will talk.
  • Star Trek: Voyager episode "The 37s" has the crew find a group of humans who vanished from Earth long ago, including Amelia Earheart and her co-pilot. The co-pilot gets shot and whilst being treated by the Doctor, tells Amelia he loves her. He then finds the Doctor has cured him and tells Amelia to forget everything she heard.
    • Another Voyager example. In the episode "Renaissance Man", the Doctor starts making a list of confessions believing he is about to go offline (including telling Seven of Nine he loves her). After finding he will not go offline, he hides in sickbay for a week out of embarrassment.
  • At least two cases from Lois and Clark. One is during the pilot , when Lois has earlier said she'd never sleep with a colleague, and later, when they are tied to an exploding bomb, tell of case when she did. In a later episode, Lois and Jimmy are tied to a mast when a Doomsday Device is about to be activated, and Jimmy tells Lois about a wet dream he had of her.
  • The Nanny: When Fran & Mr. Sheffield are in an airplane that's about to crash, Mr. Sheffield tells Fran that he loves her. Then after they survive, he takes it back. (He eventually un-takes it back and they get married.)
  • In Get Smart as they're in an unwinnable situation, Max tells 99 he loves her and if they get out he'll marry her. Cue 99 going medievel on the asses of the KAOS agents who have them surrounded.
  • A less lighthearted example: an episode of Torchwood has Tosh tell Owen that she loves him, thinking that he has only a few minutes left. Tosh then tells Owen she didn't mean it (though we see contrary to this later in the season).

Webcomics

Web Original

Western Animation
  • One episode of The Simpsons features Smithers, thinking that an Apocalypse of some kind is coming, getting the nerve to kiss Mr Burns. They exchange a very awkward "see you in the office" after the Apocalypse turned out to be just a promotional gimmick by a Shopping Mall.
    • In another episode of The Simpsons, where there's about to be a nuclear meltdown:
      Smithers: There may never be another chance to say: I love you, sir.
      Mr. Burns: Oh, hot dog. Thanks for making my last moments on Earth socially awkward.
Community Feedback Replies: 63
  • August 1, 2012
    forgottenlord
    The name leapt to mind but as I was writing it, I realized that most of the examples will probably not include an Apocalypse so a better name is needed. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    I also have a hard time believing this never came up but I couldn't find a different trope that covered this...
  • August 1, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • Red Dwarf: Rimmer creates a copy of himself and, following an extreme case of Other Me Annoys Me, everyone agrees that one of the Rimmers has got to go. Lister persuades the unlucky Rimmer to tell him his embarrassing secret about gazpacho soup before the procedure - then reveals that he's already erased the other Rimmer.
  • August 1, 2012
    LeeM
    • This is how the plot of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novel The Confession of Brother Haluin begins. After being horribly injured in an accident the eponymous Haluin makes his confession to Prior Robert and Cadfael. After he makes a miraculous recovery, Haluin decides that his 'deathbed' confession is no longer sufficient and insists on doing penance as soon as he is fit enough to walk (or rather hobble).
  • August 1, 2012
    Earnest
    As for names, maybe Awkward Confession Facing Death Only To Survive, though it's on the long side. =/
  • August 1, 2012
    robinjohnson
  • August 1, 2012
    robinjohnson
    There may be a law of narrative at work here: the more embarrassing a secret you confess on your deathbed, the more likely you are to survive.
  • August 1, 2012
    Earnest
  • August 1, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • In an episode of Father Ted, a group of priests are aboard a plane that seems set to crash. One priest makes a confession of love to the priest sitting next to him. After the plane is saved, the episode ends with a long, silent shot of the awkward looks on both their faces.
  • August 1, 2012
    Avurai
    "Any Penultimate/Intermediate Words?"

    Prehumous Confession?

    As a twist on Earnest's, Twelfth Hour Awkwardness?
  • August 1, 2012
    robinjohnson
  • August 1, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Keep those suggestions coming but I've adopted Earnest's for the time being. Thanks for all the suggestions so far.
  • August 1, 2012
    PapercutChainsaw
    Premature Deathbed Confession? (Looking for a word that says it better than "premature"...)

    Literature
    • In The Belgariad, Adara is shot with an arrow and believes herself to be dying. When Hettar appears by her bedside, she confesses her love for him, only to be told soon afterwards that she's fine.

  • August 1, 2012
    Avurai
    I think the title is good, as well as clever, but unfortunately I've realized it (on its own) gives the impression that one has survived the apocalypse and decides to make a confession in euphoria.

    Hmm... I think we should keep the Eleventh Hour part but try to alter the rest.
  • August 1, 2012
    BOFH
    Film
    • In Kind Hearts And Coronets, Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini has been sentenced to death for the one murder that he didn't commit. While awaiting execution, he writes his memoirs in which he confesses to all of the murders that he did commit (every D'Ascoyne ahead of him in the line of succession to a duchy). Just before his hanging, exonerating evidence is discovered and he is pardoned. However, his realization that he has left the manuscript of his memoirs with the confessions to the murders of his family in his prison cell may make this example a subversion...
  • August 1, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I've added a bit to the description and all examples to this point are now listed
  • August 1, 2012
    JoeG
    • The Closer: A man involved in a serious car crash is administered last rites by a priest and confesses murdering his wife, only to survive. Even though the priest keeps the man's secret, the man murders the priest a few months later in fear that the priest will talk.
  • August 1, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In another episode of The Simpsons, where there's about to be a nuclear meltdown:
    Smithers: There may never be another chance to say: I love you, sir.
    Mr. Burns: Oh, hot dog. Thanks for making my last moments on Earth socially awkward.
  • August 2, 2012
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television

    Star Trek Voyager episode "The 37s" has the crew find a group of humans who vanished from Earth long ago, including Amelia Earheart and her co-pilot. The co-pilot gets shot and whilst being treated by the Doctor, tells Amelia he loves her. He then finds the Doctor has cured him and tells Amelia to forget everything she heard.
    • Another Voyager example. In the episode "Renaissance Man", the Doctor starts making a list of confessions believing he is about to go offline (including telling Seven of Nine he loves her). After finding he will not go offline, he hides in sickbay for a week out of embarrassment.
  • August 2, 2012
    MorganWick
  • August 2, 2012
    Omeganian
    I remember at least two cases from Lois And Clark. One is during the pilot (I think), when Lois has earlier said she'd never sleep with a colleague, and later, when they are tied to an exploding bomb, tell of case when she did. In a later episode, Lois and Jimmy are tied to a mast when a Doomsday Device is about to be activated, and Jimmy tells Lois about a wet dream he had of her.
  • August 2, 2012
    Antigone3
    Nitpick on the Cadfael example -- it wasn't Prior Robert, it was Abbot Radulfus.
  • August 2, 2012
    Omeganian
    An Entry With A Bang has a man confessing his love and proposing to a girl while they expect a nuke to hit their Dropship. She accepts... then it turns out Earth only had time to put warheads on half the missiles. Oh, and he proposed in front of the entire bridge crew.
  • August 2, 2012
    TheWanderer
    • In one episode of The Simpsons where it looks like the nuclear plant is about to suffer a meltdown, Smithers confesses his romantic feelings for Mr. Burns. Right afterward Homer manages to save the plant by accident.
  • August 2, 2012
    Doxiedame
    I'd suggest Saved by the Secret, but that may be too misleading.

    Confessional Conservation.

    (I admit it. I prefer alliterative titles. It helps my bad memory. :D )
  • August 2, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • The Nanny: When Fran & Mr. Sheffield are in an airplane that's about to crash, Mr. Sheffield tells Fran that he loves her. Then after they survive, he takes it back. (He eventually un-takes it back and they get married.)
    • In Get Smart as they're in an unwinnable situation, Max tells 99 he loves her and if they get out he'll marry her. Cue 99 going medievel on the asses of the KAOS agents who have them surrounded.
  • August 3, 2012
    triassicranger
    A less lighthearted example: an episode of Torchwood has Tosh tell Owen that she loves him, thinking that he has only a few minutes left. Tosh then tells Owen she didn't mean it (though we see contrary to this later in the season).

    Not sure if this counts because Tosh wasn't the one dying.
  • August 3, 2012
    Sackett
    Well do we have the other trope?

    A last minute confession = death? We might want the names to be related.

    Is this a subversion of that trope, or is it about the last hour confession seeming to give the character enough plot armor to survive?
  • August 3, 2012
    Doxiedame
    Deathbed Confession and Dying Declaration Of Love are in the same vein.

    Alice believes herself to be on the verge of death. She's held a secret for quite some time. Maybe she's afraid of what others will think of her. Or maybe, she was afraid Bob will spurn her confession of love. Whatever the case, her mortality makes it seem as though she will not have to deal with the fall out.

    But surprise, she lives! And now she has to face the consequences of her deepest secret being bared for the world to see.

    So, it's a bit of a subversion, but it's a pretty big plot point in it's own right. Unless, of course, Status Quo Is God and the Reset Button has been pressed in between episodes, meaning there aren't any consequences, anyway.
  • August 3, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ I wondered that myself. My memory is a bit foggy on this, but IIRC when Magnum was in a coma after the car accident near the series' end of Magnum PI, Higgins confessed to being Robin Masters, then took it back (saying he lied or was kidding or some such) after Magnum recovered. I guess I want to know if the confessor needs to be the one doing the dying (or rather the near-dying) in order for this trope to work.
  • August 3, 2012
    Earnest
    Closes I can find is If We Get Through This, which isn't about confessions but just expressing to want to live to do X.

    Maybe Redemption Equals Death? If the point of the confession is to earn forgiveness, then confessing gets you killed.
  • August 3, 2012
    Doxiedame
    ^^ Well, the description in it so far states the confessor is dying or thinks they're dying, but it seems like the situation's pretty much the same regardless of whether the secret holder or the object of the secret's dying.

    ^ It seems to touch on and subvert a good number of tropes. Redemption Equals Death would be one subverted/averted in some examples.

    This really is a tricky one to get named correctly. It seems so specific, but touches on so many different tropes.

    We may need to go with a dreaded hyphenated phrase. Or even a title that's a tiny bit awkward. Maybe like, Not So Final Confession, maybe?
  • August 4, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Maybe something like Saved By Embarrassment?
  • August 4, 2012
    Ryusui
    • In The Closer episode "Last Rites," this turns out to be the motive for the murder of a priest: a man who was critically injured in a car accident confessed to the priest that he had killed his wife, and when he survived, he killed the priest to keep him from telling anyone.
  • August 6, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I'll add a note about If We C Get Through This to the list of related tropes

    Definitely not Redemption Equals Death because the entire point is that they didn't die. I could see a case where the person in question is trying to incite a Redemption Equals Death but fails to die....but I'm not sure that would necessarily be this trope.

    I don't think I'll list the number of death tropes it'll subvert. Instead, I'll just leave a note stating that this could be a subversion of many Death Tropes and leave it at that - for every Death Trope we'll list here, there's probably 3 somewhere else on the wiki that would just as easily apply.

    BTW: this isn't that the person is dying but that they are about to die - not the same thing. Most cases I can think of, they're perfectly healthy except for that fatal event that's coming.

    I'll put the updates in later....
  • August 6, 2012
    SKJAM
    Sometimes invoked in crime dramas--the detective or cop will let the wounded person think they're dying, so they'll spill information or a confession. Then laugh as they reveal that the person will survive.
  • August 6, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Serenity, Simon figures he's about to die, so he tells Kaylee he regrets never having had sex with her. Which gives Kaylee the will to live and probably helps tip the odds a bit in their favor.
  • August 7, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Serenity's more of an If We Get Through This case rather than this. I think the Get Smart instance might also be that but I don't know the show well enough to say so I put it in.

    All examples are now included.
  • August 7, 2012
    CrankyStorming
    In the Family Guy episode where they think they're all going to get crushed in a black hole but it turns out to be an April Fools Day joke by the local news, Peter admits that he hates Chris. They settle their differences when he buys him a new Xbox.
  • August 7, 2012
    DracMonster
    Didnt Mean To Survive After Confessing? (Clear but long and clunky)

    I Survived Can I Take My Confession Back if dialogue were allowed, heh.

    Wait... Unfinal Confession?
  • August 7, 2012
    sigh824
  • August 8, 2012
    MorganWick
    I actually like Not So Final Confession.
  • August 8, 2012
    NoRyu
    In the manga Dai no Daiboken, the seer girl, Merle, is about to die when she confess to Poppu. This causes him to reveal more of his potential and he then heals her with his newly acquired healing magic. The ending show them in a triangle relationship with another girl.
  • August 8, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Alright, we're at 5 hats. Suggestions on Categories?

    And short of a really good suggestion cropping up, I'm stuck between Surviving The Eleventh Hour Confession and Not So Final Confession so quick poll: which should I use?
  • August 8, 2012
    Nachia
    I prefer with Not So Final Confession to cut down on length.
    • Sword Art Online: Kirito and Asuna, after dying in SAO believe they will be Killed Off For Real, and thus reveal their real-world names and ages. Kirito wakes up realizing that while he "died" in game, the Nerve Gear did not kill him. He eventually finds Asuna in the real world.

    Yeah, age. There's an unspoken rule that nobody talks about their real lives while in SAO.

    I feel the main difference between this and If We Get Through This is that the characters believe there's no chance they will survive.
  • August 9, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
  • August 9, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I've modified it somewhat about it being what they want to happen when the make the admission, but I don't agree that it is about whether they do or do not think they have a chance at surviving.
  • August 11, 2012
    sigh824
  • August 24, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Not So Final Confession it is. I'll launch this weekend (probably)
  • August 24, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In Disney's Tangled, Flynn and Rapunzel are about to drown in a cave quickly filling with water, and Flynn reveals that his real name is Eugene. Rapunzel, in turn, says that she has magic hair that glows when she sings. By saying it out loud, they realize that this can help them escape. She proceeds to (affectionately) call him Eugene for the rest of the movie.
  • August 25, 2012
    Tallens
    • Babylon Five: In "The Fall of Centauri Prime" Delenn and Lennier are adrift in a Whitestar that was nearly destroyed by Centauri warships. As more Centauri shows up, an alarm sounds indication weapons lock, and Lennier take the opportunity to tell Delenn he loves her. Then the Centauri start towing them away instead of firing.

    EDIT: Afterwards, she tells him the alarm drowned out what he said.
  • August 25, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I know there's an example of this from CSINY. I don't remember the details, though: The officer asks their suspect about how long he's had a bullet in his chest. After he talks about how he's going to die from it, the officer reveals that unlike the mob doctors, their medical surgeons were able to get the bullet out safely, and he's going to live ... in jail, of course.
  • August 27, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I think the five hats indicate we can get rid of at least some of the tags.
  • August 27, 2012
    Waterlily
    In Almost Famous, the band (and the teenager reporting for Rolling Stone) thinks their plane is going to crash and reveal several secrets including: The married guitarist is having an affair with a groupie, his bandmate slept with the wife, the teenager is in love with the groupie and another band member is gay.
  • August 28, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Thanks, forgot about that. Tags removed except general call for examples
  • August 31, 2012
    Avuai
    Bump
  • August 31, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    In Dragon Ball Abridged, Lord Guru thinks he's about to die, so he confeses that he drank enough water to send the planet into a drought, and blamed it on the albino Namekians, which led to a global genocide. Then he doesn't die, so the rest of the (not enraged) Namekians eat him.
  • September 1, 2012
    sigh824
    So..are we good for examples now?
  • September 2, 2012
    Acebrock
    • Subverted in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Secrets of My Excess." After Spike goes back to being a baby dragon he tries to admit to Rarity, who's falling to what could be her death with him, that he has a crush on her, but she just shuts him up because she already knew, and then they're saved by Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.
  • September 3, 2012
    Freud
    Two possible examples: the second Madagascar movie ("I broke your iPod"), and the second-to-last episode of the second season of Downton Abbey, which might be an inversion or something, because the nurse is telling the "dying" person, and the patient doesn't seem to remember the conversation later.
  • September 3, 2012
    surgoshan
    You might want to mention the related Deathbed Confession.
  • March 20, 2013
    RobinZimm
    If I'm reading this proposed trope correctly, there was an example in This Is Spinal Tap when the plane the band was on was flying through a storm.

    Also, will someone launch this already?
  • March 27, 2013
    blueflame724
    Die Hard: In a tense scene, John Mc Clane tells Al Powell that he doesn't expect to make it through the terrorist situation(and considering he's pulling glass out of his feet, it's shown to be a pretty bleak situation). He then proceeds to apologize to his wife and tells Al to pass the message on. Al simply tells him that he Will get through it(which of course, he does).
  • March 27, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Corrected a Pot Hole, tweaked a couple of examples.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=v0tr32wfys5t7mezh08cj34l&trope=NotSoFinalConfession