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Chekhov's Hobby

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"Can I just say it's pretty great havin' a human Swiss Army Knife 'f abandoned hobbies around? I ain't even sayin' that sarcastically."
Commander Badass from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things

Whenever you prepare for a story you don't want any plot point to come across as an Ass Pull. But depending on the needs of the story you don't want to spend more time than necessary to establish a vital skill a character may possess that will prove useful, such as an establishing scene that will be used as a Chekhov's Skill.

The solution? Establish the skill of the character through dialogue only. It isn't much, but it gets the job done in much the same way. Along the lines of fiction this inherently goes against the Show, Don't Tell mantra, but if done well it never comes across as an Informed Ability (after all, you do eventually see the evidence of their skill — it's just delayed).

For example, before going on the adventure the Plucky Comic Relief apologizes for being late because he had to help his sister who locked herself out of their car. Later, when everyone is detained and bound by shackles, this guy gets a hairpin from a girl and manages to free himself and the others. It was mentioned he had the talent, but it isn't until now that we see him use it. If we actually saw him unlocking his sister's car, then it would be a Chekhov's Skill.

Sister trope of Workplace-Acquired Abilities. Compare Suddenly Always Knew That when a character suddenly reveals that they had the skills as they are using it, instead of any sort of foreshadowing.

Compare Pastimes Prove Personality, Let's Get Dangerous!.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Several of the pilots in Bokurano have their hobbies or passions come into play when they fight their enemies. Waku, a soccer player, either knees the enemy robot while Zearth's arms are bound(anime) or kicks the severed arm into it (manga). In the manga, Anko, who wanted to become an Idol Singer as a way of seeing her television reporter father on TV, uses her dance-like moves in order to close in on her enemy, and when she gives a Rousing Speech to Earth, she tells her father with her last breaths that she learned how to talk that way watching him on the news.
  • Marcille from Delicious in Dungeon. Early chapters have her offer to heal and revive people but is always turned down in favor of just waiting for an actual healer to do the job, and she mentions knowing how to create golems. As the party makes it deeper into the dungeon she begins actively healing, and golem creation is revealed to be forbidden magic hinting at the dark nature of her knowledge.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: A severely twisted one for Solf J. Kimblee, who Loves the Sound of Screaming. It's the only thing that enables him to retain his pseudo-sanity after being assimilated by Pride, and later assists Ed in defeating Pride after the homunculus crossed a line. A very strange line, but Kimblee is a very strange man.
  • In The Movie of Hetalia: Axis Powers, (North) Italy saves the world from an Alien Invasion by doodling on their faces. He was previously established to be an artist.
  • In episode 9 of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka tells Shinji that she's been learning about thermal expansion, followed up by some rather playful teasing about whether this could be applied to her as well. Later on in the episode, they come across an Angel living in lava; Asuka and Unit-02 are sent in and just when it looks like the Angel might be too much, Asuka rips off the coolant pipes connected to Unit-02 and aims it at the Angel, neutralising it.
  • Black Butler: In his first appearance, it's mentioned that Aleister Chamber has a doctor's license. Turns out he's part of the Aurora Society, which becomes important in two separate instances.
  • In Haikyuu!!, Tanaka mentions that his older sister Saeko practises taiko drumming when she isn't going to college or work. She and her team turn up with their instruments during Karasuno's Nationals match against Inarizaki, who boast an overwhelming cheer squad, and play their own cheers to provide the team much-needed support.
  • In The Saint's Magic Power Is Omnipotent, protagonist Sei is transferred to another world and finds herself lost and without anything to do until she stumbles onto an herb garden being used for magical potion research. It's never shown beforehand but she mentions that she has extensive knowledge and experience using herbs on earth, for things like cooking, making cosmetics, and herbal medicine. Combined with her magic, she creates borderline miraculous products, like an eye-bag cream that accidentally corrects her vision, too.

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animated 
  • Barbie movies:
    • In Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses, the princesses' hobbies like horseback riding, croquet, and stilt-walking come in handy when they fight against Rowena and her guards at the end of the movie.
    • In Barbie: The Pearl Princess, Fergis wants to be a botanist, and it's this interest that helps him save Scylla when she's poisoned.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • A variation on this is seen in Cinderella. When one first sees Bruno the dog, he is sleeping and dreaming of chasing Lucifer the cat, which Cinderella warns him against, lest he loses his nice warm bed. Near the end of the film, when Cinderella is locked in her chamber and the mice have the key to unlock her door but are stopped by Lucifer, she calls on her bird friends to retrieve Bruno, who chases off Lucifer for real, thus allowing the mice to bring Cinderella the key.
    • In Tangled:
      • Several of thugs' talents are used in the rescue. Most notably the mime provides a great distraction for the guards.
      • Rapunzel is seen passing the time by climbing up her own hair in the tower. As such, she's able to use it to swing herself and Flynn to safety when Maximus chases them.
      • Rapunzel is also established to be an avid painter. She eventually discovers she had subconsciously painted the Corona symbol onto her walls from a young age, confirming that she is the lost princess.
  • In Hey Arnold! The Movie, Gerald is seen playing an arcade game where you drive a runaway bus. He gets a GAME OVER which prompts Arnold to question it considering "you play this game all the time." Comes into play later when, wouldn't you know it, Gerald is asked to drive a runaway bus.
  • In the 2005 film of The Magic Roundabout, when the gang stops in a cave for camp for the night, Ermintrude thinks that people would flock for an open-air Verdi festival and even does some opera singing to accommodate that. However, her high note is so loud that it causes icicles to fall and almost impale Brian, but one gigantic icicle crushes Dougal's bag of gobstoppers. Towards the climax, when Zeebad tries to zap Dylan, but he zaps Ermintrude's tail, causing her to scream in pain, resulting in a crack on the frozen carousel to form, giving Dougal an idea on how to free the children who are trapped in there. Dougal tells Ermintrude to sing; she does so and when she reaches the high note, most of the ice on the frozen carousel breaks apart.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jurassic Park films:
    • In Jurassic Park, Alex insists she isn't a computer-nerd, preferring to call herself a hacker. Later in the film, she is the only one not fighting dinosaurs to work the park's security system that is run by computers.
    • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm's daughter Kelly mentioned about her being cut from the gymnastics team. She later used those skills on an improvised uneven bars to kick a raptor out a window.
    • Combined with another Chekhov's Gun, Billy from Jurassic Park III mentions he has experience with base jumping as he starts to pack up the parachute they found.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had Mutt mention that he took fencing classes and was rather proficient at it. He later has a sword fight with Irina Spalko.
  • Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei's character) in My Cousin Vinny and her knowledge of cars.
  • It was established in Transformers (2007) that Mikaela had a criminal record for helping her dad steal cars. In the climax, she demonstrated the knowledge of how to hotwire a tow truck when Bumblebee was injured. Interestingly enough, this turns into a Chekhov's Skill in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, where she has to hotwire another vehicle in a hurry.
  • In an early scene in Lethal Weapon 2, Riggs bets another cop that he can escape from a straightjacket in under five minutes. After he wins the bet, he explains that the reason he can do that is because of an accident years ago where he dislocated his shoulder, enabling him to dislocate it purposely to slip out of such a restraint. This talent naturally comes in very useful much later when his life depends on escaping from a straightjacket when the villain tries to drown him while restraining him with one.
  • In Independence Day they made mention that the President was a fighter pilot during the Gulf War. In the climax, he decided against reason and took control of an aircraft in their Last Stand. "I'm a pilot. I belong up in the air."
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
    • Farm Boy Luke Skywalker is actually a hot-shot bush pilot who used to bullseye womprats with his T-16 back home. Surely the wacky adventures Luke must have had while growing up on Tatooine had much to do with flying a military space fighter at extremely high speeds in a tunnel while evading fire from the most skilled pilots of the galactic empire.
    • Luke also mentions that the Death Star run will be "Just like Beggar's Canyon back home", meaning he already has some experience with flying in confined spaces (though in an atmosphere, not space). The problem with this is described in this Irregular Webcomic!. "Luke, you dweeb! You can't manoeuvre like that! There's no air out there!"
  • In Angels and Demons, McKenna (the priest) mentions that he knows how to fly helicopters. Guess what happens later in the movie? He volunteers for a suicide mission to take a ticking bomb up in the air so it couldn't hurt anyone when the job could only be done by flying a helicopter (there was another pilot there but it wasn't his heroic moment).
  • In the beginning of Willow, the title character puts on a stage magic act during the festival, which concludes with a trick where he makes a pig disappear; unfortunately for him, he botches it, and the pig (which he actually transferred under the table using sleight of hand) runs away, resulting in everyone laughing at him). Later, at the climax of the story, when Willow faces Bavmorda alone as is completely outmatched, he still refuses to hand over Elora or deny that he's skilled in wizardry, telling the sorceress that he'll protect the child by sending her to "a realm where evil cannot touch her". What he actually does is perform the same stage trick again, but more dramatically and more competently, using Elora in place of the pig; it's so convincing that Bavmorda is fooled, and in her anger, spills the potion she was intending to use to slay the child, falling victim to it herself.
  • Grindhouse:
    • Zoë Bell's ability to always land on her feet in Death Proof. It is mentioned in a funny way when the girls talk, but when attacked by the Big Bad, it becomes very important.
    • In Planet Terror, Cherry literally catalogues her "useless skills", most of which involve her ability to bend and flex as a dancer. Damned if they don't come in handy at the end of the picture though.
    Dakota Block: You know, my girlfriend had a theory. She said at some point in your life, you find a use for every useless talent you ever had. It's like connecting the dots.
  • In Morning Glory, Harrison Ford's character demonstrates the correct method of cooking a frittata, something he's perfected after many years. When he sets up an impromptu cooking segment in a last-ditch effort to keep his producer from jumping ship, he's of course frying up the perfect frittata.
  • The Graduate: It's mentioned at his graduation party that Ben was captain of the track team in college. Golly, I wonder if he'll have to do some running later...
  • While in the cooler, Hilts tells Ives that he rode motorcycles a lot at county fairs in The Great Escape. This dialogue sets up the movie's most famous action scenes.
  • In The Last Boy Scout, Jimmy Dix mentions offhand that he's started riding horses and gotten quite good. At the film's climax, he saves the day by throwing a football on horseback.
  • In The Hunger Games Peeta's icing (like the original book below).
  • In the film adaptation of Madeline, Pepito just loves to spend his free time riding his motorcycle throughout his parent's yard or playing pranks on everyone, much to the irritation of the titular character. Both of his hobbies later help the girls out: first by setting firecrackers off to scare potential buyers of their boarding school, then later, to steal a motorcycle from kidnappers and escape into the country.
  • In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy's mentioned knowledge of geology helped him breaking out through the prison wall.
  • In National Treasure, treasure hunter Ben Gates has diving skills. When the FBI rattle off his personal history, it's mentioned that he is an ROTC graduate and certified diver in the Navy Reserve. He also mentions in passing that his watch is a very expensive diving watch when he uses it as security to borrow a 100-dollar bill. Both of these are blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but together, they beautifully explain how a treasure hunter can jump off a bridge in a technically correct way. In Real Life, many treasure hunters are trained divers, since salvaging wrecks is the most common way of finding treasure.
  • Psycho establishes that Norman Bates is an amateur taxidermist—there are stuffed birds in the hotel office. Then in the end, we meet Mother.
  • Murder Mystery reveals that Nick studied Latin in high school instead of a more commonly used language. Two scenes later, he uses that Latin to talk to someone who doesn't speak English.
  • On the beginning of Cast Away, one of the things that Chuck did in his spare time is sail, which comes in pretty handily later on. The only reason he didn't try leaving the island in the four year time-jump is the coral reef that kept the ocean waves from the beach also blocked any boat that he could have used.

  • In Alternate Routes by Tim Powers, it's a recurring thing that Vickery and his late wife used to go hang-gliding together, which is shown in a few flashbacks. It's mentioned once near the beginning, and never shown, that he made the hang-gliders himself. The climax of the novel involves him having to build a hang-glider out of improvised materials and with improvised tools in order to escape from the place where he's trapped.
    • In the sequel Stolen Skies, Vickery has taken up painting, and tells Castine about a technique he uses to try and capture the unique look of his echo vision. The technique becomes crucial to defeating the threat at the climax.
  • Matthew Reilly's "Scarecrow" Schofield series:
    • In Ice Station, it's mentioned via a flashback that Schofield used to be a pilot before his significant eye trauma. This becomes important when the marines get an opportunity to fly out of the ice station.
    • In Area 7, it's mentioned that Gant is training to be an officer. She later references her training manuals to take command in Schofield's absence.
  • In The Hunger Games Peeta is a baker's son who iced cakes. His painting ability proves to be of use when camouflaging in the games and he also bakes for Katniss to try to win her over.
  • The original The Hardy Boys Young Adult novels personified this trope in the form of Chet Morton, the best friend of the eponymous duo. Most stories had him talk about or display his latest hobby, which would without doubt become important later. This was mostly dropped in the Hardy Boys Casefiles, a sequel series of sorts that started in the late 1980s.
  • Averted in Josephine Tey's mystery Miss Pym Disposes, in which a character is referred to as being skilled at imitating other people's voices, and yet we never see her do this and it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the plot.
  • In The Legendsong Saga, Solen’s ability to deal with seasickness. This means that he is awake and on deck both to rescue Glynna at the start of Darkfall, and to help birth the he-feinna. The explanation also covers the reason why Hella, his sister, was awake to hear Soonkar being discovered as a stowaway, rather than being in a drugged sleep like most travellers.
  • In The Nexus Series, Rangan was a neuroscientist who moonlighted as a DJ before the plot kicked off. The neuroscientist bit is important throughout — it's in large part *why* the plot kicked off. His DJing ability is totally irrelevant until the climax of the trilogy when he uses it to simultaneously calm down three hundred congressmen who have just been dosed with Nexus and are in the initial psychedelic stage of its effects.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the final part of the book has a Plot Tailored to the Party where each member of the trio helps pass a challenge based on a hobby of theirs. Harry is a good Quidditch Seeker, which allows him to spot the right key flying in the air. Ron is an expert chess player who is able to captain them through a living chess game. Hermione is an avid reader and thus knows how to solve a logic puzzle that identifies a set of poison.
  • In The Da Vinci Code Sophie discovers that her grandfather invoked this. She was raised with crossword puzzles and riddles, all so that she would one day solve the cryptex he left her.
  • In Jo Whittemore's novel Colonial Madness, Jill Porter, a seamstress, eventually wins a competition by sewing two sheets together to reach a prize.
  • This is a common thing in Goosebumps, where someone will have what is at first just some quirk that later becomes important, such as Eddie's pick-pocketing skills in A Night in Terror Tower.
  • Bazil Broketail: Endi's ability to play games proves useful during a minor plot thread in final book, when he and other dragonboys are trying to expose Felp Bunyard as a fraud and get back money he cheated out of their colleague Curf.
  • In Spike And The Cowboy Band from the Fern Hollow series, Spike Willowbank is taking violin lessons from Professor Sigmund Swamp. When the fiddle-playing leader of said cowboy band injures his arm and cannot play for an upcoming music festival, Spike is able to fill in.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The Middleman, Wendy Watson's painting, affinity for zombie movies, and love of first-person shooter video games all come in handy when she begins training as a Middleman.
  • In Dead Like Me, Georgia Lass works part-time as a filing clerk in a temporary job agency, but we barely see her actual work there. You'll probably forget what her job was by the time of the episode where death takes a vacation and the Reapers use that day to file their reaps' data for the Celestial Bureaucracy, where her skills as a filing clerk and her keys to the office where she used to work prove very handy.
  • The Power Rangers developed these quite a bit during the original run. The most blatant was the beginning of Turbo (a car themed season) when Tommy and Adam both suddenly became interested in cars and car maintenance.
  • In CSI: Miami, the socially awkward Walter is immediately forthcoming with his knowledge on whatever non-mainstream activity or lifestyle is the focus of the episode. He even knows the lingo!
  • JAG: Bud’s interest with the paranormal comes in handy at times, as in ”Vanished” when they manage to locate a missing F-14 with the help of observations made by UFO enthusiasts.
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of the Fatal Arrow", Tony mentions to Dominick that he is learning hang-gliding during a conversation at the start of the episode. Guess what skill he uses to stop the Professional Killer at the end of the episode?

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The RPG Men in Black actually has this as a game mechanic. Every character has a typically useless skill. It is generally the job of the GM to work it into the story in a plot-relevant way, but by the end, it can be difficult to even remember what your useless skill was to begin with.
  • In Betrayal at House on the Hill, every character has hobbies listed on their character card. Each character is also scripted to be the traitor in certain scenarios, because of their relevant hobbies.

  • In The Foreigner, Charlie admits to his dismally boring, nerdy and useless job as a comic-book proofreader, specifically asking "who on Earth cares if there's one "K" or two in "Klaatu Barada Nikto?!" At the climax of the play this same Charlie puts on an alien possession act, screaming, of all things, "Klaatu! Barada! Nikto!" before pretending to violently dissolve one of the "Klan members" threatening him. The ensuing spectacle chases the real Klan away and saves the day.

    Video Games 
  • The Cat Lady: Susan suffers from chronic depression that ended her career as a nurse. Toward the end of the game, she pulls an Awesomeness by Analysis moment due to identifying a piece of medical equipment.
  • Morgan from Double Homework had a secret love of fantasy novels, TV shows, and movies. On her romantic path, the protagonist discovers one of her fantasy steampunk stories on her computer. He posts it on a writing site, and it gets good reviews.
  • Early on in Fate/Stay Night, Mitsuzuri attempts to get Shirou to rejoin the archery club, and it's mentioned that Shirou was very good at it. One of the Servants is of the class Archer...guess who he really is?
  • Final Fantasy IX establishes that Alexandria loves the play "I Want To Be Your Canary" and it's performed there every year. So when the escaping Princess Garnet finds herself on stage during a performance (with her mother watching), she's able to improvise and play Princess Cornelia's part. A flashback later reveals that she has been reading the play since she was six.
  • Sybil Pandemik in Sam & Max: Freelance Police changes jobs more often than clothes, and it's pointed out that her on-screen resume is only a fraction of the whole. Later on, when a large team must be assembled to enter Maxthulhu's body, Sybil has so many varied skills that she fills a dozen different requirements. In the end, though, it turns out the only contribution she makes is by being pregnant, and triggering Max's protective side when she goes into labor, thus convincing Max's Superego that he's worth saving.
  • In Resident Evil, Chris Redfield was noted as being in the Air Force before joining STARS. At the end of Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, Chris uses his piloting skills to pull off the escape from Antarctica. It becomes important in Resident Evil 6 when he needs to pilot a plane in order to destroy a C-Virus missile.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, Welkin's interest in animals and nature was used for several unconventional strategies throughout the war, such as finding a way to drive a tank through a river and assaulting a supply-base hidden in a thick forest. His friend Faldio, by contrast, was pushed over the slippery slope due to what his archaeology knowledge allowed him to discover in the Valkyria ruins.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Early in Volume 1, Pyrrha explains Aura to Jaune. She clarifies that it's not just hunters who have it, but all living things - humans and animals, both. Late in Volume 2, Ruby and Yang's pet dog Zwei displays the ability to fight Faunus and Grimm by using a Fastball Special ability of his Aura.


    Web Original 
  • In Lego RPG The Movie, Henry mentions that he used to play hockey, and all the hits and blows he took made him a little slow. Not too long after, Galeno betrays him and Arich, and has them both pushed off the top of the closet. Henry was so used to hits that he was able to stay conscious after the fall, carry Arich, and set up a camp.
  • Oh so much in the Whateley Universe. Tennyo's love of fishing leads to her and Harry saving an injured boy. Phase's fixation with finance leads him, over several stories, into taking over a major corporation and launching an IPO. Shove's secret love of making jewelry provides Phase and Fey with a way of stopping Peeper. Aquerna's learning parkour in "Parkour Hooligans" saves her neck in later stories. Fey's little brother's interest in cars and metalworking provides Generator with a new weapon she unleashes in Jade 9 and later stories. And on and on.

    Western Animation 
  • An ongoing Running Gag in Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! has Daphne exhibiting a different quirk each episode. These quirks often relate to resolving a plot point later in the episode; a number of these "quirks" relate to Daphne's hobbies.
  • Parodied in an episode of Dave the Barbarian. When Fang insults Dave's hobby of collecting little figurines, he outright says "Someday my love of decorative knick-knacks will come in handy!" Later on, it turns out that the Monster of the Week loves decorative knick-knacks; as Dave gladly supplies her, Fang glares and mutters "I hate you so much right now... But good job, Dave."
  • One episode of Family Guy opens up with Peter and Joe discovering Quagmire has hanged himself to enhance his pleasure of masturbation. Quagmire is rushed to the hospital and recovers and the scene is never mentioned again. However, near the end of the episode, Quagmire confronts his sister's abusive boyfriend and winds up being nearly choked to death by him. Because Quagmire chokes himself regularly for a sexual thrill, he manages to pretend he was killed and proceeds to kill the attacker when the guy least suspects it.
  • In Futurama, Professor Farnsworth has built numerous doomsday devices and several episodes feature them attempting to use them as a potential solution to whatever problem they're currently facing. Likewise, Hermes will occasionally be called on to use his Olympic-level Limbo skills.
  • In episode five of Over the Garden Wall, Wirt mentions to Beatrice that he plays the clarinet. Come episode six, Wirt's musical skills keep Wirt, Beatrice, Greg, and George Washington from getting kicked off the boat when the ferry band's bassoonist goes overboard and the passengers demand the music to continue.
  • The Owl House: In "Hunting Palismen", Kikimora secretly listens in on Belos' private discussion with Hunter, which leads her to sabotage Hunter’s mission. "King’s Tide" shows that listening to Belos' private meetings is a regular occurrence for her, meaning she knows about the Collector and is able to guide King to them.


Video Example(s):


From a New Angle

Cole has trouble doing geometry and finds comfort in model sail-boating. Cole doesn't realize he's been using geometry when sailing the boat and his family helps him understand geometry by using his sailing skills.

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