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Something bad happens. A character gets into a car accident, or they get attacked by an assailant, or some other situation that results in them receiving a blow to the head that knocks them out cold.
Cue a time skip. The character awakens in a daze some time later, usually hours, but sometimes days or even weeks. And they come to only to find that somehow they were transported someplace else whilst they were unconscious - can be just about any place imaginable, but often it is a hospital, a prison, or a kidnapper's lair.
More often than not the character will receive tragic or otherwise unwelcome news upon regaining consciousness, for the sake of drama. A Water Wakeup is optional but earns points for good villainous form.
Compare/contrast Unfamiliar Ceiling, where a character awakens in good hands, confused but generally safe.
Because this trope usually marks a major turning point in the story... beware of SPOILERS!
Anime and Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji wakes up in the hospital after his first fight in an Eva and says, "An Unfamiliar Ceiling?"
- Naruto: At the end of Part I, Naruto wakes up in the Leaf Village's hospital and learns that he and his team failed to stop Sasuke from defecting to Orochimaru.
- With Strings Attached starts out with the four waking up on another planet. There are other instances as well:
- Ringo is thrown off a garage roof in New Zork and wakes up in the Plaza Hotel, where he'd slammed into a bed there and been in a healing sleep for several hours. That's when he first finds out that bad shocks cause him to teleport to safety.
- A similar thing happens when he is scared out of Ehndris and wakes up in the room in the abandoned inn in Ta'akan where the four had spent the previous night. Some 400+ miles away from Ehndris.
- Diamonds Are Forever has two examples.
- After receiving a Tap on the Head, James Bond wakes up inside a coffin, just in time for an attempt at Murder by Cremation.
- After being rendered unconscious by sleep gas, he wakes up in an underground pipe and must face an electrified tunnel integrity checker.
- In The Living Daylights, James Bond is drugged in Tangier and wakes to find himself on a plane bound for Afghanistan.
- This is part of Buffalo Bill's MO in Silence of the Lambs. After spending weeks stalking a victim, he lures them into his van, knocks them out, handcuffs them, examines their skin, changes them into a jumpsuit and puts them in the well in his basement.
- Suspect Zero: This happens to the protagonist, FBI Agent Thomas Mackelway, after the Serial Killer killer O'Ryan ambushes and drugs him at a county fair. He wakes up some time later bound on the floor of the killer's apartment, where a smiling O'Ryan casually threatens to torture him to death.
- This is basically the entire plot premise of The Hangover, including the cast literally waking up in Las Vegas with no memories of the previous night's debauchery.
- Taken to an extreme length in Predators, where the protagonists wake up while falling down from the sky at high speed.
- The Korean film Marrying the Mafia opens with one of these. The protagonist wakes up in bed with a Mafia Princess, with neither of them knowing how they got there. The girl's family assumes they had sex. Hilarity Ensues. At the end, it's revealed how they got there: the girl's family put them there as a ploy to make her marry a man they approved of.
- An author wakes up after a car accident to find he has been rescued by his No. 1 Fan and installed in her remote cabin - a situation that isn't as fortunate as it first appears - in Stephen King's Misery.
- In Burned by Ellen Hopkins, towards the end of the book, the main character Pattyn and her boyfriend Ethan (whose unborn baby she is carrying) are fleeing from a police officer on an icy road. The car ends up going off the road and crashing and Pattyn is knocked out cold. She wakes up in the hospital some time later only to be informed that both Ethan and their child have been killed.
- Paolini relies on this trope a lot in Eragon, using it instead of actual scene transitions in many instances. Examples include: Eragon fainting after finding a wounded Garrow and waking up in the care of the village healer, Eragon fainting of exhaustion after using magic against an Urgal, Eragon fainting again after using too much magic against Urgals, Eragon blacking out when attacked by the Ra'zac, Eragon blacking out again while Murtagh rescues him from said Ra'zac, and Eragon getting knocked out in an Urgal ambush which allows him to be captured.
- Seems to happen to Katniss more and more frequently as The Hunger Games series progresses, particularly as Mockingjay is basically one long Heroic BSOD.
Live Action TV
- In the Law and Order SVU episode "Infiltrated", Olivia Benson (working undercover as Persephone James) is involved in a fight between police and the ecologist's group she is working with. She is hit by a police officer and knocked out cold, and awakens some time later to find herself handcuffed to a hospital gurney and a police officer informs her that she has been arrested.
- In the opening credits of the first episode of The Prisoner, the title character was knocked out via sleeping gas. When he woke up, he was in The Village (no, not M. Night Shyamalan's version).
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "Stopover in a Quiet Town. Two people try to drive home drunk. When they wake up the next morning, they're in a completely deserted town.
- There are at least three episodes of Psych where Shawn is struck in the head and wakes up somewhere else. Lassiter's apartment, tied up in a chair, and strapped in a bed respectively.
- In the episode "Strong Arm of the Law" of American Gothic, a drunken thug is given something that knocks him out, only to wake up and find himeself inside a coffin, laying next to the body of the man he killed; the coffin is in the process of being buried.
- Drew Carey, in one episode, wakes up on the Great Wall of China, thanks to Mimi.
- Like in the comic, the beginning of the series The Walking Dead has an injured Rick waking up in the hospital, only to find that while he was sleeping, the Zombie Apocalypse has started and humanity has been almost completely wiped out.
- Happened on Monk, with Monk being attacked in San Francisco and waking up (with amnesia) in a tiny town in Wyoming.
- In Noah's Arc, this happens with Ricky following passing out due to an infection, waking up in a hospital.
- CSI Catherine wakes up in a motel after being given roofies in her drink at a bar.
- Nick probably counts too; he was knocked out at a crime scene with chloroform and woke up buried alive.
- Steely Dan's "Do It Again" has a verse that vaguely implies this; even if the fellow wasn't necessarily unconscious upon arriving, he definitely finds his presence unexpected and a bit unnerving:
Now you swear and kick and beg us
That you're not a gambling man
Then you find you're back in Vegas
With a handle in your hand
Your black cards can win you money
So you hide them when you're able
In the land of milk and honey
You must put them on the table
- Alan Wake: The protagonist wakes up in a crashed car after diving into the lake to save his wife
- Happens a lot in Silent Hill, with characters waking up near or in the titular town. If they're already there, it often happens again when coming across an important bit of information, after defeating a boss, and when the Otherworld takes over yet again.
- In the original Half Life, Gordon is ambushed by hostile marines and wakes up in a trash compactor.
- Happens three times in Fallout: New Vegas, once in a doctor's office at the start of the game, and twice at the start of the first and third DLC. It would be funny, considering the trope title, but the Courier never wakes up anywhere near Vegas itself.
- Before the Cass romance was cut for time, the Courier and her were going to wake up in Vegas and find out they got drunkenly married the night before.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, the player character escapes a doomed ship and wakes up in an apartment on an unfamiliar planet, with an ally dropping the news that s/he's been Asleep for Days.
- Has happened at least once to Max Payne.
- In Skyward Sword, Link is knocked out by a volcanic blast as he tries to land in the Eldin Volcanic region. He wakes up with no items and only three filled hearts, in a jail cell.
- In Street Sharks, the protagonists apparently drop over dead in a lab. They wake up in a flooded storm drain, very confused.