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Suddenly Sober

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A couple of characters are engaging in a night of heavy drinking, possibly at a bar or Wild Teen Party. After a series of wildly hilarious shenanigans that would only be engaged in by the very intoxicated, possibly summed up as a Binge Montage, the characters need to have a Very Serious Conversation. Luckily, they become Suddenly Sober and can speak all the plot-relevant dialogue that will advance the story exactly as required, without once spotting a pink elephant or declaring "I love you, man... no, no, but, you... I love YOU, man."

Suddenly Sober is the moment in a movie or TV show in which a drunken character suddenly transforms from a word-slurring, sidewalk-tripping, projectile-vomiting mess to a highly-coordinated, quick-thinking, somehow enlightened (and much more sober) version. This could be brought about by some sort of crazy action sequence, a sudden realization, or any other sort of device that moves the plot along. Usually results in uncannily clear thinking or cat-like reflexes, depending on the situation. This trope can also apply to characters who are high, tweaked, etc. and suddenly sober up.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • First episode of Black Lagoon. Revy and Rock have an impromptu drinking competition in a Bad Guy Bar, and both of them are looking extremely sloshed - then a bunch of mercenaries shoot up the place with heavy machine guns and grenades, and they all have to crawl to safety and drive to safety - which they accomplished without so much as a hiccup. Perhaps justified for Revy, since she's a top-grade Action Girl and all-around badass, but Rock is just a Japanese salaryman who gained his alcohol tolerance from getting dragged out drinking with his superiors all the time.
  • Justified in Ghost in the Shell, since the protagonists are cyborgs who can have the toxins filtered out of their blood immediately. In the first movie, The Major willingly allows herself to get drunk by disabling this function.
  • During the Hetalia: Axis Powers Christmas 2007 strips, a cheerfully drunk England is told by Finland that one fan wants his advice on what to do about a broken heart, whereupon he suddenly becomes sober and sad as he reveals that he himself has suffered from a broken heart for at least 100 years and knows all too well what heartbreak feels like. Hanatamago even lampshades this: "He suddenly snapped out of it!"
  • Horimiya features a variation involving delirium from illness rather than intoxication when Miyamura is giving a feverish Hori some rather mundane information before leaving for school, only to casually drop the reveal that he's in love with her just before heading out the door. The second she processes what he said, the shock of it immediately snaps her out of her fever and back to reality.
  • Happens in One Piece during the Skypiea arc, when the Straw Hats are attempting to go to Skypiea despite having been jeered and thrown out of Mock Town for bringing it up. Later on, the town drunk, while relieving himself in the harbor, finds newly-delivered copies of the latest updated pirate bounties, and sees Luffy's and Zoro's bounties; despite his drunken state, he remembers that Luffy's bounty was earlier revealed to be 30 million berries, lower than local thug Bellamy's 55 million, and casually dismisses Luffy and Zoro as weaklings for having been beaten up by Bellamy's gang (though actually, Luffy and Zoro chose not to fight back). Then he manages to count off the number of zeroes on Luffy's new bounty paper, sees that it's 100 million berries...and promptly snaps back sober with a very frightened expression on realizing what kind of people Bellamy chose to pick a fight with.
    • The drunk slowly sobers up over the course of like ten panels, or maybe thirty seconds in-universe time. On the other hand, when Nico Robin drops the bomb on Neptune about having read the Fishman Island Poneglyph, he goes from absolutely smashed to stone-cold sober in the time it takes her to say three words.
    • Kaido of the Beasts is extremely drunk when Luffy first confronts him. Luffy proceeds to lay into Kaido with the most powerful moves he can unleash on him. It fails to do anything to Kaido except sober him up and make him mad.
  • Played for Laughs in the Christmas omake/OVA of Fairy Tail. The girls all get drunk while partying in Lucy's house, until Erza decides to rope everyone into playing the Guild Master's Game, and when she gives the first order (forcing Gajeel to strip naked in front of everyone), the other girls sober up in shock. Then, after Erza is forced to walk back home naked (not that she cares one bit), she runs into Jellal, and she quickly sobers up in embarrassment.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman (1989): Clurican the Faerie did this at the end of the World's End arc—he was completely soused for most of the episodes, then suddenly sobers up (as the storm blows itself out).

  • Zig-zagged in Born to Be Wilde. Judy goes through an entire chase and fight with a bat after drinking a glass of "non-alcoholic" carrot juice, lasting at least ten minutes. By the time it's finished and the bat, who killed the club owner, escapes, she's still sloshed... that is, until she sees Nick's body in a pool of blood. Then the Precinct 5 officers bust in, and due to a bad impression resulting from the fight, she's shot with a tranq dart. When she comes to, the blend of tranquilizer and the remaining alcohol means she's right back to being heavily doped.
  • Invoked in the Naruto fanfic Everto. When Sasuke is injured badly, Naruto calls up a drunk Tsunade and uses his demon Compelling Voice to make her sober enough to treat him. Apparently he does it mostly unconsciously.
  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Papa Smurf has a remedy that makes Smurfs suddenly sober from the effects of smurfnip. This was used a few times in the stories — in "Smurfnip Madness" when Grouchy, and then later most of the village, had fallen under the effects of the drug, and in "A Haunted Christmas" when Nabby was haunted by Meat-O-Vision hallucinations after he ate his stash of smurfnip during a famine.
  • This Bites!: In Chapter 75, Commander-in-Chief Kong incites this reaction on Sengoku, who's drinking his stress away. In a last-ditch effort to dissuade him from retiring, Kong tries to use the memory of Sengoku's dead son, which he knows is a Berserk Button. He only manages to say the first syllable of his name before blacking out from Sengoku's Haki, and when he regains consciousness five seconds later, Sengoku doesn't seem to have moved, but the wall directly behind him is crumbling to pieces. Then, Sengoku very quietly asks if Kong was saying something.
  • Hunters of Justice: Justified and Played for Drama. After Willow Schnee and her son Whitney were captured by Brainiac, the alien warlord took her vitals and noticed she was currently drunk and a proven alcoholic. So he injected a "sobriety solution" into her to make her sober. While it cleared her head, it also made the situation worse, because it reinforced that what was happening to Whitley and her was real.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 10 Things I Hate About You: Kat shows up at Bogey Lowenstein's party, gets trashed on tequila, and entertains revelers by dancing on a table. She collapses into Patrick's arms and almost passes out when he turns his back on her. After stumbling up a hillside, falling off a swing, and throwing up on Patrick's shoes, she spends the ride home engaging in witty repartee and insightful analysis of her social life.
  • Adam from Hot Tub Time Machine takes coke, weed, and mushrooms in his hotel room and can't even get up from the floor. His nephew, Jacob, then bursts into the room and tells him he needs his help. Adam is completely sober in the next scene.
  • In the Sinbad comedy Houseguest, the main character, posing as a renowned wine expert, manages to bluff his way through a wine-tasting party by getting everybody else roaring drunk. A group of upper-crust white folk do not remove their pants and get down to "Brick House" when mildly tipsy. However, a scene later that very night has the hosts perfectly sober, and nary a hangover the next morning. And how did they drive everybody home that night? However, the movie is such a mess in the editing department that this seems to be just another oversight.
  • Independence Day: David (Jeff Goldblum) has his inspiration for how to use a virus to hack the alien invaders' computers while too drunk to stand up. He then manages what appears to be a highly complex programming task without missing a beat.
  • Iron Man 2: Tony is completely wasted during the party at his house, but when Rhodes shows up to fight him, Tony is still able to fight effectively. Not as competently as he would sober, but he's had a lot of practice at being drunk.
  • Jaws: The three shark-hunters get drunk while waiting out the night on their boat... until Hooper and Brody hear Quint's story about the sinking of the USS Indianopolis, and then even more sobering, the shark comes back.
  • Mean Girls: Cady throws a party, her friend comes by and calls her plastic, she suddenly sobers up and tries to get people out of the house.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: Marion Ravenwood drinks the large man under the table during a drinking competition at her bar, and is subsequently confronted by Nazis looking for an amulet her father owned. Even though her drunkenness was an act to turn the betting odds, she shows no sign that she'd just downed what had to be more than a dozen shots of hard liquor.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, the German soldier celebrating the birth of his son goes from being sloppily drunk to articulate and reasonable within about a minute. Of course, in that minute he survived a gunfight that killed about a dozen people, which would presumably have quite an effect on someone.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, our heroes host Klingon Chancellor Gorkon and his staff at a dinner aboard the Enterprise in which a lot of Romulan ale is drunk. This leaves Kirk and his officers quite hungover at their next shift — until a photon torpedo suddenly hits Kronos One, and the hangovers quickly disappear as the shock and horror set in.
    Kirk: What's happened?
    Spock: We have fired on the chancellor's ship!
  • The Awful Dr. Orloff: After reading Wanda's note, Inspector Tanner hunts out the drunkard Jeannot in the tavern, and demands that he guides him to Orloff's castle. Jeannot is falling down drunk, but sobers up instantly when Tanner throws a pitcher of water in his face.

  • Good Omens: Aziraphale and Crowley — an angel and a demon — get extremely drunk once they figure out that the apocalypse is coming. Then, when they decide they need to talk seriously about it, they force themselves sober. It's apparently an unpleasant experience.
  • Justified in a Discworld book.
    • There are some things alcohol can't cut through, and a dragon vaporizing a man right in front of you is one of them. Another is Klatchian Coffee.
    • The sudden, horrible realization that you're in the Shades after dark will also "do the icy work of a good night's sleep and several cups of coffee", as happens to Vimes, Colon, and Nobbs in Guards! Guards!.
  • In The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, photographer Odd Bunsen negotiated a balcony several stories up to retrieve a cat...while completely drunk. He soon sobered up when he found the dead body of interior decorator David Lyke.
  • In the Honor Harrington novel In Enemy Hands, Admiral Thomas Theisman is driven to drink once he realizes that Honor, whom he considers a Worthy Opponent, is going to be abused and murdered on trumped-up charges for propaganda purposes. When the half-mad propaganda minister who ordered it comes knocking on his door, he uses a medical device to sober up, with extremely unpleasant side effects. It's left ambiguous as to whether the side effects in question stemmed from the sober-up device, or what State Sec planned to do to Honor.
  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe it turns out the eponymous establishment helpfully offers a device in its lobby that serves this purpose; just pour the drunk into the booth and drop a coin in the slot.
  • Another instant example appears in The Stainless Steel Rat novels, in pill form. Again, it's an unpleasant experience downing one of them, but they work.
  • Journey to Chaos deconstructs this in A Mage's Power. Culmus has gotten raging drunk and done many comical things in a pub. Then Eric says that he needs him for something serious and so Culmus stops drinking and leaps into action, but he's still drunk. So Eric has to support and guide him to their guild for a Hideous Hangover Cure and even then it takes several hours before Culmus is truly ready for action.
  • The Redemption of Althalus: Justified when Althalus decides that one of his allies is too much of an Addled Addict to be useful, so he uses Time Dilation magic to sober the guy up. However, the "Suddenly" is only from the world's point of view; the alcoholic was stuck riding out weeks worth of withdrawal.
  • In The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor lures a heavily inebriated Fortunato into his palazzo's catacombs and proceeds to chain him to a wall to bury him alive. The alcohol wears off fast once Fortunato realizes his dire situation and he begins screaming and struggling. Even Montresor is surprised by it.
  • In Oathbringer Veil tries Horneater ale to trick a mark into lowering his guard around her. Once she's got the information she needs, she uses her Healing Factor to instantly sober up and walk out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Flashpoint: A radio DJ has a nasty bourbon habit and takes a guest hostage. As soon as he realizes the truth about what happened to his son, he stops leaning over the table like he's about to fall over and begins speaking in crystal-clear English.
  • Family Matters: Urkel gets his punch spiked at a rooftop party and gets thoroughly drunk, drunk enough to fall off the roof. However, once he catches the ledge he sobers up and starts screaming for help.
  • In the mini-series adaptation of Stephen King's It, Ben is clearly drunk when he gets the phone call from Mike. Once he finds out that It has returned, the terror sobers him up instantly. He then proceeds to get drunk again.
  • Star Trek has "synthehol", which is defined as an alcohol simulation that mimics its pleasurable effects without actually intoxicating you so that you can drink all you want in the ship's bar and still be sober if Red Alert is called. It's speculated by some fans that it works by allowing imbibers to become sober at will. It's also suggested that adrenaline can neutralize it.
  • One episode of Charmed (1998) had Prue and Phoebe under the influence of fairy dust, which brought forth their childhood innocence and had them acting like drunks or toddlers or drunk toddlers. When they see a demon trying to steal the Book of Shadows, it's enough of a shock to their system to bring them back to adulthood. When they have to explain how they're suddenly not "drunk" anymore, they explain that they tumbled down the stairs (because of the demon attack), and "Stairs can be sobering."
  • Mythbusters did an episode testing supposed quick-sober techniques (exercise, getting slapped, drinking coffee, getting dunked in ice water). Nothing was completely effective, but exercise and getting slapped did show a distinct improvement in coordination.

  • Cyril in Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida:
    Hilarion, who has been with difficulty restrained by Florian during this song, breaks from him and strikes Cyril furiously on the breast.
    Hilarion. Dog! There is something more to sing about!
    Cyril. (sobered) Hilarion, are you mad?

    Video Games 
  • Sakuna Of Rice And Ruin: As said after having a Mistaken Age incident in the opening cutscene:
    Sakuna: Whew... The sting of that horrible comment sobered me right up.
  • Saints Row 2: A Sons of Samedi mission sees the Boss get drugged and pulled into the General's limousine. When the General has his men kill the Boss, they sober up just enough to jump out of the car (the rest of the mission shows they're still under the influence to some degree, though).
    The Boss (high and laughing): You're a general? You hear that? That asshole thinks he's a — (sees one of them has pulled a gun) SHIT!
  • Earlier in Yakuza 0, Kiryu encounters a pair of drunks who, in an Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, not just hurl insults at each other, but picks a fight with Kiryu who has no choice but to defend himself. All he needs is to knock their heads around, and voila, they become instantly sober, wondering what happened, and leaves afterwards.


    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Being shocked, frightened or agitated enough may sober you up amazingly fast, provided you aren't stinking drunk. Mind you, this isn't true sobriety - it's the adrenaline (a stimulant) counteracting the alcohol (a depressant). After the shock is over with, if you still have a lot in your system or continue to drink, you will go back to being drunk. The reason this is no help for the very drunk is not just because there is more alcohol for the adrenaline to counteract, but very drunk people have trouble recognizing danger to be shocked or scared by it in the first place.
  • This trope can also result from people either pretending to be drunk, or acting drunker than they actually are, then they stop pretending (or forget to keep up the pretense) when something interesting happens.
  • A similar effect results from those who are "hung over" on sleep. Waking up at an inopportune time in the sleep cycle (in particular, attempting to rouse someone from stage 3 or 4 sleep) results in the person being incredibly groggy, but something they consider particularly important (such as being late for school or work) can rouse them to full wakefulness in an instant. This is why many people splash cold water on their face in the morning: the body interprets this as an "assault" and prepares to fight an assailant. When there is no real danger, the person is simply awake.
    • Depending on how critically important the person deems to wake up when the alarm clock rings, it can work just as nicely as a loud scream straight to the ear no matter how peaceful the bell's tune is, or how mild its volume is set to.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Instant Sobriety


"Show me the way to go home"

Hooper starts singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home," and soon all three are in a drunken, hand-banging singalong. Then the barrel breaches the surface again, and ominous thumps start sounding in the Orca and parts of the hull start bowing in.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DrunkenSong

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