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Old Friend

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Martins: I guess nobody really knew Harry like he did... like I did.
Calloway: How long ago ?
Martins: Back in school. I was never so lonesome in my life until he showed up.
Calloway: When did you see him last?
Martins: September, '39.
Calloway: When the business started?
Martins: Um, hmm.
Calloway: See much of him before that?
Martins: Once in a while. Best friend I ever had.
Calloway: That sounds like a cheap novelette.
Martins: Well, I write cheap novelettes.

Someone knocks on the door of your overly spacious apartment. It's an Old Friend from childhood, or an old college roommate — someone you knew long ago but lost touch. Maybe he just stopped to say hi, or maybe he needs to bunk down at your place, or maybe he wants to share a holiday with you. He may be more wild and crazy than you. You may be reluctant to join his hijinks at first, but now that he's around, you start joining in.

This can be the premise of a work or a series. Think The Odd Couple or Supernatural.

If the Old Friend messing with your life isn't part of the premise, then Status Quo Is God will eventually have your friend leave, or you give him the boot. You will likely be unhappy; there's more than even odds he will be, too. The visit of the Old Friend will leave you wondering how little he's changed and how much you have. Or, on occasion, vice versa.

Toxic Friend Influence is when this friendship is really bad for you; expect An Aesop about leaving the past behind you, often with the main character recalling that this is why they lost touch in the first place.

In sufficiently recent works, the Old Friend is likely to be a New-Age Retro Hippie.

Compare Beleaguered Childhood Friend. Not to be confused with I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine, but can overlap. Contrast Old Flame Fizzle, discovering that the friendship (instead of the love) is gone, and We Used to Be Friends, for cases where the former friends have become hostile.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Parodied on Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei with a character in love with all things old-fashioned who claims to be an old friend of the title character's. It turns out that they were friends for just one day in elementary school; it's a Japanese pun.
  • In chapter 112 UQ Holder!, Touta's adoptive mother takes him to meet some of her old school friends (aka the cast of Negima! Magister Negi Magi).
  • In Asteroid in Love, this is the forty-first chapter's premise. Specifically, Mai reunited with her elementary-school era friend Keiko, who brought Mai into maps in the first place. At Present Day, however, Keiko sees that as an Embarrassing Hobby and has a poor opinion on Mai's continued interest in this. Sayuri tries to recouncile the two.

    Comic Strips 
  • It turns out Crystal and Lunker were Childhood Friends in Retail'. Notably, she's the only one of Grumbel's employees allowed to call him by his real name, Mel.

  • A darker example occurs in The Third Man — the main character, Holly Martins, goes to post-WWII Vienna to meet up with an old friend, who ends up having become a child-killing criminal, and whose actions turn Holly from a jovial and semi-innocent guy into a severely depressed one.
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Harry is reunited with childhood friend/crush Harmony at a Christmas party. True to this trope, her appearance heralds a whole lot of trouble for Harry.
  • The Banger Sisters has Goldie Hawn arriving to bust straitlaced farmer groupie friend Susan Sarandon out of a rut she didn't know she was in.
  • Rude Awakening, a 1989 film starring Cheech Marin and Eric Roberts as two former radicals who have been hiding out in the jungles of Central America from the government, returning to the US to discover that their friends have sold out.

  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, an old friend of Gaunt's from school is a major character — although it is inverted, with Gaunt turning his life upside down.
  • The setup for P. G. Wodehouse's Love Among the Chickens.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this is basically the role that wild and crazy quasi-hippie Zaphod plays to his ever-so-slightly more down-to-Earth "semi-cousin" Ford.
  • Gandalf in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings drops by the protagonist's house and gets him into an adventure.

    Live Action Television 
  • Done repeatedly on all the CSI series. Usually one offs, but Sam Braun recurred and was revealed as Catherine's dad.
  • Friends has "Gandalf" (because he's the Party Wizard) who is never seen but is described as exactly having this effect. When he fails to get into town for a planned weekend of fun, the guys try to replicate the results without him and find they can't because they've grown up and their tastes have changed.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ned Stark to King Robert, stemming from the two of them growing up as foster brothers.
    • Howland Reed is also an old friend of Ned Stark's. Unusually, he is also The Ghost and only introduced after Ned's death.
  • Green Acres used this trope when Lisa had relatives visit. In one episode, her mother came and the entire town turned out to welcome her.
  • One episode of How I Met Your Mother is dedicated to the phenomenon of "Revertigo", whereby meeting an old friend temporarily turns you into the kind of person you were when you knew them.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: In episode 2, Elrond drops by Durin's home out of nowhere for politically reasons after 2 decades of not seeing each other. Naturally, Durin is pissed off, because his supposed best friend ghosted him for 2 decades in which he became the heir to the throne, got married and had kids, and now he shows up as if nothing happened. It took Durin's wife, Disa, for the two to rekindle their friendship again.
  • Mike Franks played this role at times on NCIS, usually turning up in time to bring a case to Gibbs's attention.
  • Scrubs uses this a lot:
    • J.D. and Turk's old college buddy Spence, played by Ryan Reynolds, comes to visit. They envy Spence because he gets paid more money, works fewer hours, and gets to drink in his time off. His whole purpose in the episode is to take them out and encourage them to party like the old days; they drink while on call and then have to deal with the consequences.
      • Spence even gets a What the Hell, Hero? moment when they tell him about the verbal thrashing they went through from Cox the next day.
        Spence: You didn't tell me you were on call... Hey, you know, I have a presentation to give tomorrow. Ask me if I want to go out drinking tonight.
        Turk and J.D.: [sheepish murmuring]
        Spence: No. I have a presentation.
    • Turk's brother Kevin turns up, constantly trying to be a bundle of fun and energy to mask up his unhappiness with his divorce. He drags Turk out with him, making Turk realize that he needs to make time for his brother, even if his wackiness is annoying, because Kevin needs the emotional support. Doing so, however, causes problems in Turk's relationship with his girlfriend Carla, so actually Turk would have been better off saying no to Kevin.
    • J.D.'s older brother Dan shows up in several episodes. His lack of maturity and responsibility in comparison to his younger brother is highlighted in a variety of ways, though each brother usually ends up learning something from the other by the end of each of Dan's appearances.
    • Elliot's sorority sister Melody comes to visit. She still acts as wild as she did when the two were in college together, and this is contrasted with how much Elliot feels she has changed over the years.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "Blood Oath," Kor, a Klingon, turns out to be one for Curzon, the previous host of the alien symbiont Dax—"Curzon, my beloved old friend!" Dax now inhabits Jadzia, a Trill woman; upon learning this, Kor immediately embraces her new identity: "Ah, well—Jadzia, my beloved old friend!" The trope becomes more serious, though, when it's revealed that Kor and his fellow Klingons Koloth and Kang have been looking for Curzon to help them fulfill a blood oath that they swore against an old enemy who murdered their firstborn sons. Kor's own boy was Curzon's godchild, and Jadzia feels compelled to join in the hunt because of Curzon's participation in the oath and residual rage, much to the disgust of her fellow Starfleet officers.

    Video Games 
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Kafei hides himself in the backroom of his old friend who owns the Curiosity Shop while searching for the Sun's Mask. The Curiosity Shop owner apparently knew Kafei when the latter was just a kid and is predictably shocked to see his friend looking like a kid once again. The typical character dynamic is inverted, however, in that Kafei is the straitlaced one compared to the Curiosity Shop owner.
  • A thoroughly benign example appears in Dragon Age: Inquisition. It's actually a subversion in that Baron Desjardins is an Old Friend not of anyone in the actual game, but of Josephine's father; she reaches out to him to take control of Suledin Keep once the Inquisition liberates it. The usual character dynamic is absent in that the Baron is a good-hearted and responsible man who is happy to be of service.

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted and subverted in the Five-Episode Pilot of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Inverted in that Monterey Jack is the Old Friend of Geegaw Hackwrench, who brings Chip and Dale to drop in unannounced at Geegaw's home and enlist his help on the case they're investigating. Subverted when it's revealed that he disappeared sometime prior to the series, leaving his daughter Gadget to join the hijinks—and the cast—instead.
  • In an episode of Daria, Jake and Helen's old hippie friends come stay with them for a weekend. The friends are still living the hippie lifestyles, and at first Jake and Helen try to rekindle with their hippie roots. But eventually their friends reveal how weary they are of the hippie life and instead decide to adopt a more modern lifestyle.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Griffon the Brush Off", Rainbow Dash's old friend Gilda (a griffon she met at Junior Speedster Flight Camp) comes to Ponyville to visit. When she's not hanging out with Rainbow, Gilda displays a mean streak: she steals an apple from a produce stand, scares Granny Smith, and bullies Fluttershy until she bursts into tears and runs away. When Pinkie Pie tries to turn the situation around by throwing a welcome party for Gilda, the griffon lashes out at the other ponies, calling them dweebs and insulting Pinkie as "Queen Lame-o", and tries to get Rainbow to leave the party with her. Disgusted with Gilda's rude and selfish behavior, Rainbow tells her to go find some "new cool friends someplace else", and Gilda storms out, ending the friendship. However, four seasons later, both Rainbow Dash and Gilda make amends with the help of Pinkie Pie and a friendship problem to rebuild Griffonstone.
  • The Owl House: Eda and Raine refer to each other as this in the latter's first episode. It's later revealed that they were a little more than friends.