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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.

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 The Chick 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 sisters car then it would be a Chekhov's Skill.

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.

Examples of Chekhov's Hobby include:


Fan Fiction

Film

  • In Jurassic Park, Alex insisted she wasn't a computer-nerd, but preferred to call herself a hacker. Later in the film, she was the only one not fighting dinosaurs to work the park's security system that was run by computers (not counting Tim, who gave Lex some much-needed cheering on instead of, y'know, fetching the goddamn gun to help keep a carnivorous dinosaur out of the room).
    • In the second movie, 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 the third movie 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.
  • Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei's character) in My Cousin Vinny and her knowledge of cars.
  • It was established in the first Transformers movie that Mikaela had a criminal record for helping her dad steal cars. In the climax she demonstrated the knowledge of how to hot wire a tow truck when Bumblebee was injured. Interestingly enough, this turns into a Chekhov's Skill in the sequel, where she has to hotwire another vehicle in a hurry.
  • 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."
  • In Star Wars Episode 4: 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
    • T-16s are, as explained in the Expanded Universe, common civilian craft, the equivalent of a Cessna. The advantage it gave Luke to have flown a T-16 is the fact that the T-65 X-Wing has almost the same control scheme, being made by the same shipyard. And T-16s have a low-power (by Star Wars standards) laser. Luke wouldn't have had to evade the Empire chasing him down just for flying around in his legally-owned civilian-grade aircraft.
  • 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).
  • Zoe 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 fritatta, something he's perfected after many years. When he sets up an improptu cooking segment in a last-ditch effort to keep his producer from jumping ship, he's of course frying up the perfect fritatta.
  • 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 movies most famous action scenes.

Literature

  • In Matthew Reilly's 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 referrences 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 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.

Live Action Television

  • 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 an 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!

Role Playing Game

  • 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.

Theater

  • 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

  • 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?

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.

Western Animation

  • 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."
  • One episode of Family Guy opens up with Peter and Joe discovering Quagmire has hung himself to enhance his pleasure of masturbation. Quagmire is rushed to the hospital and recovers and the 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.
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