When being held prisoner, the natural inclination is to escape. And your chances of escape are greatly improved if you have some kind of weapon. So naturally captors are careful not to allow their prisoners access to any kind of weaponry. However, prisoners still need to be fed, and that usually involves some kind of utensil. And an eating utensil can make a handy improvised weapon. Or a useful tool for digging.
Cutlery Escape Aid is when a captive attempts to steal an eating utensil to use as a weapon or otherwise aid in their escape. This is one of the things a hero might attempt during a No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine scene. May be delivered by means of a Jail Bake.
This is very common in Real Life. Cutlery make the most common types of "shiv", as even a plastic spork is deadly if its handle is sharpened against a wall.
- In Noir, Chloe swipes a silver dessert fork after having tea at Mireille and Kirika's apartment, keeping it as a memento of Kirika, on whom she has a massive girl-crush. In the finale, Kirika has to kill Chloe with that very same fork when Chloe successfully disarms her and then tries to Murder the Hypotenuse (Mireille).
- Free, the immortal werewolf from Soul Eater tries to invoke this: he allows himself to be captured because he thinks it would be cool to dig his way out with a spoon like in the movies. Unfortunately he forgot he was in a Japanese series, and all of his meals were served with chopsticks. He ends up spending about 200 years in prison as a result.
- Big Finish Doctor Who: Used in a unique fashion by the Doctor while locked in the village jail in "The Monsters of Gokroth". He is delighted when he and Maleva are brought metal spoons with their meal, much to Maleva's confusion. However he uses the spoon and junk from his pockets (wire, a battery, etc) to create an electromagnet that he uses to slide open the metal bolt on the door.
- In The Batman Adventures #14, the Ventriloquist tunnels his way out of Arkham Asylum with a spoon. Almost. His tunnel emerges a few feet short of the gate and Scarface berates him for his stupidity.
- Lucky Luke: The Daltons are forever breaking out of prison by digging tunnels with their spoons. Being the Daltons, they each dig a tunnel, which doesn't make them any less able to outwit the wardens.
- In one Spider-Man comic, Boomerang palms a spoon from the prison dining hall and bends it into a makeshift boomerang that he uses to knock out the door controls for the cells.
- In Suicide Squad: Most Wanted, Deadshot snaps off pieces of his utensils to construct a shiv that he uses to take out out a guard and escape.
- In Superlópez, Chin Chao, an Asian associate of Giorgio Papino's band, is known for digging his way out of prisons... with spoons.
- In Wonder Woman (1987) Cheshire escapes from prison with a short length of twine, cheap plastic knife and a small compact mirror.
- Modesty Blaise: In "The Special Orders", Sam is being held captive by a gang of slavers. She steals a knife from dinner and uses it to prise out the scrap of cloth she had jammed into the doorframe earlier to prevent the lock from closing.
- In an omake for A Witch and an Amazon Walk into a Bar Sally-Anne Perks uses a spoon to dig her way out of the Malfoys' dungeons.
- In Madagascar, the penguins somehow manage to tunnel out of their habitat by using plastic spoons.
- Invoked on Monsters, Inc., when Mike suggests using mostly spoons to dig a tunnel and use it to release Boo back into the wild. In this case it's not because they are prisoners, but because Mike is just out of ideas.
- Dr. No. When the Bond Girl is dragged away to be handed over to Dr No's guards, Bond jumps to his feet only to get a gun shoved in his back. Bond puts down the bottle he was going to use as an Improvised Weapon, but Dr No then tells him to also put back the dinner knife he palmed during this moment of distraction.
- Escape from Alcatraz: Palmed spoons from the prison cafeteria, among other make-shift devices, were used by Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers to dig their way out of their cells and get out of Alcatraz.
- In A Man Escaped, Fontaine uses an iron spoon he steals from his lunch pail to saw through the soft wood joints holding the wooden panels of his cell walls together.
- In Mercenaries, Elise grabs the knife that arrived with her food and uses it to hold Ulrika hostage and threatens to kill her unless the guards let her go. It fails because Ulrika calls her bluff and Elise does not have the nerve to actually kill her.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Elizabeth Swann sneaks a knife from the table while she's dining with Barbossa on the Black Pearl. She does end up stabbing him with it, but since he's undead this doesn't do anything to him and he even lampshades the Fridge Logic by asking what she intended on doing after killing him, seeing as how she's trapped on a pirate ship in the middle of the ocean.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark: While Marion is drinking wine with Belloq, she grabs a table knife in order to escape. The attempt fails because of the arrival of Major Toht and the Nazi guards.
- In Reform School Girls, Claudie steals a fork from the dining hall and uses to take a guard hostage; holding it to her throat and making the other guards back off, allowing the mass breakout to proceed.
- Seven Ways from Sundown: In the cabin, Seven snaps the tip off Flood's knife so he can't use it to escape.
- In Sucker Punch one of the things Babydoll and her friends steal when planning their escape is a kitchen knife from the chef. Though Rocket gets stabbed to death in the attempt, or maybe she's still alive in the asylum, it's ambiguous.
- In the 87th Precinct novel So Long as You Both Shall Live, a kidnapped woman uses the vinegar and oil left with her salad to remove the rust and lubricate the door hinges of the room where she is being held. She then uses the fork to scrape away the rust and pop the pins out of the hinges to escape the room. However, she finds she is still trapped in the house. This novel was later adapted into an episode of Columbo.
- Ascendance Series: In the first book, The False Prince, Sage is constantly stealing silverware, although it's not always clear whether it's to help him escape from Farthenwood, to sell once he does, or just because he can. He and Tobias both steal knives from the kitchen, which comes back in the sequel The Runaway King, when Imogen steals dozens of knives from the kitchens over the course of a week or two, and buries them for Sage to find.
- In The Chronicles of Amber, Corwin steals a spoon at a banquet, then attempts to steal a knife, which is confiscated. Then he spends several months cutting the cell door with a spoon. Then he escapes in an entirely unexpected way, thanks to the sharpened spoon being usable as a pen.
- At the beginning of The Emperor's Soul, Shai has repurposed a fork into a carving tool for her rune magic. Her captors make her an offer before she puts her escape attempt into action, and she ends up becoming a Boxed Crook with access to proper tools.
- In Going Postal, protagonist Moist von Lipwig manages to secrete a spoon in his cell, which he uses to gradually chip away at the ancient mortar around one of the blocks in the wall. He finishes on the night before he's due to be hanged, only to find a freshly mortared block right behind it, with a shiny new spoon in the gap. Lord Vetinari regards false hope as a healthy prisoner activity.
- James Bond
- In Dr. No, Bond attempts to steal a steak knife while he is having Dinner with Dr No. Dr No, however, is wise to this trick and has Bond searched before he leaves the table.
- In Trigger Mortis, Bond manages to steal a knife during a dinner provided by Jason Sin, and later uses it help himself to dig out from being buried alive.
- Mirtai's backstory in The Tamuli involves being captured by slavers as a child. She pulled the handle off the spoon they gave her, and sharpened the metal shank.
- In Breaking Bad, "... And The Bag's in the River", Walt has a violent drug dealer named Krazy-8 captive and considers releasing him. Then Walt collects the pieces of a plate Krazy-8 broke and finds one large piece missing, and realizes Krazy-8 is planning to murder him if he's let out.
- In the pilot episode of Breakout Kings, Gunderson is dismissed from the team and sent back to prison after he attempts to steal a knife from a diner when the team stop for lunch.
- Columbo: In "No Time to Die", the bride of Columbo's nephew is kidnapped and trapped in a room. She uses vinegar left with her dinner to help remove the rust from the door hinges, while lubricating the pins. She scrapes away the rust with a fork and is able to push the pins out, freeing herself from the room. Sadly not from the rest of the house.
- Doctor Who: In "Frontier in Space", Jo uses the spoon provided by the Ogrons with her meal to tunnel under the bars of her cell. This was actually the Master's plan- letting her "escape" and attempt to summon help via a nearby transmitter... which she didn't know was only a short-range transmitter and would consequently lure the ship the Doctor was on to the planet but not any that were further away because he knew he couldn't coerce or hypnotize her into summoning the Doctor into his trap. Afterword, he has her locked in a much more secure cell, and makes sure that this time, she doesn't have a spoon.
- In the first episode of Farscape, D'argo catches Aeryn trying to hide a fork up her sleeve. But he neglects to search Crichton, so when the two of them get thrown in a cell together, she has something to pick the lock with.
- FBI: Most Wanted: In "Chains", Hana is kidnapped by sex traffickers when she tries to help a young girl. During her captivity, she manages to palm a fork from the pantry. However, one of the traffickers is Genre Savvy enough to search her and finds the fork. However, on finding the fork, he stops looking and fails to find the piece of wire she also took and which she later uses as an Improvised Lockpick.
- Inverted in The Flash (2014). Eobard Thawne, Reverse-Flash, who is being held captive in the future, has to get rid of an object in order to break free. Said object is a power-dampening dagger, which Thawne needs the heroes to destroy in the past. Ultimately, they do destroy it, and Reverse-Flash breaks out.
- In the Australian mini-series Janus a criminal escapes from a prison van using a can opener to cut his way through the roof. When a viewer wrote in to complain that this was unrealistic, it was pointed out that this was based on a real incident.
- The Magician: At the start of "The Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", a reclusive movie star being held prisoner by her shady business manager has managed to use a spoon to prise the mortar loose from between several bricks and remove the bricks. After being caught, her jailer tells her that from now on she will be eating with a plastic spoon.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the "Escape from Film" sketch, the President of the Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things announces to the other members that the room is surrounded by film. They decide to tunnel their way out uses the cutlery and make a schedule of two hours tunneling, two hours vaulting over a horse, and two hours sleeping.
- The Muppet Show: When the pigs take over the theatre, Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo are locked in the basement. Gonzo, however, gloats that he has managed to smuggle in... a spoon! Which he then proceeds to use in an attempt to tunnel his way out.
- Whiplash: In "The Other Side of the Swan", Cobb is being held prisoner in an attic. He uses the knife from his breakfast to wedge the door lock shut and keep his captors out while he jimmies the window lock open with the fork.
- Mentioned in Tom Waits' "Get Behind The Mule" from Mule Variations.
I'm diggin' all the way to China
With a silver spoon
While the hangman fumbles with the noose, boys
The hangman fumbles with the noose
She gotta get behind the mule
In the mornin' and plow
Peoria Johnson told Dudlow Joe
- Also from Tom Waits, "Fish in the Jailhouse" offers a variant, where a prisoner boasts that he can pick his lock and escape, using not the utensil but the scraps from the meal itself.
"I can break out of any old jail, you know
The bars are iron, the walls are stone
All I need me is an old fishbone
They're servin' fish in the jailhouse tonight
- An episode of Old Harry's Game has a prisoner in Hell find a spoon to dig his way out. Turns out it was a deliberate torment, designed to torture the fugitive with his own determination.
- Archeage: To escape from Nuian Prison, players must obtain five spoons by digging the piles outside of the main prison building. After this, they must go downstairs into the cell with the tattered allpaper, remove the wallpaper, and dig their way out with the spoons.
- In Darklands you can start to try digging with a spoon right after getting arrested. With luck, it takes about a week of game time to reach "side street" location.
- In The Escapists, plastic knives, forks and spoons can be stolen and all can be used to aid in escape: knives to cut through vents, forks to chip away at walls and spoons to dig tunnels.
- In The Escapists 2, plastic knives, forks, and spoons can be stolen, but it takes far, far longer to chip a wall or dig a tunnel.note
- Ghost Trick: Sausage Head, one of the prisoners at the "special prison", is secretly digging an escape tunnel using a spoon. At a few points, Sissel needs his unwitting help to get where he's supposed to be.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: When you get captured, one of the items you get is a Fork. After you eventually escape, it serves as your main melee weapon until you can get your gear back. It can also be used for medical treatment like the standard knife, and any animals or plants you hit with it are eaten instantly.
- In Police Quest II: The Vengeance, Jessie Bains escaped from prison using a makeshift knife and taken a correctional officer hostage.
- Inmates in Prison Architect can steal cutlery from kitchens. Knives are weapons, and spoons can be used as digging tools.
- In Girl Genius Tarvek uses a fork to get out of handcuffs after being kidnapped by The Incorruptible Library/his family.
Tarvek: I've obviously been abducted. It's your uniform, you see, no Wulfenbach sigils to be seen — plus, Gil wouldn't leave me shackled... and if he did he'd never let me have a fork. So much more versatile than a knife.
- Cellbound: A prisoner uses a spoon to dig his way out, taking him twenty years to do so.
- Centaurworld: In "Holes, Part 2", while the others defend themselves in the trial, Glendale spends the second half of the episode painstakingly digging herself out of prison with a spoon.
- Garfield and Friends: Parodied in the U.S. Acres segment, "The Discount of Monte Cristo"; Orson attempts to tell the story of The Count of Monte Cristo with him in the role of Edmond Dantes, but his cousin, Aloysius, is hired to keep him from going over the show's budget. In the scene where Edmond uses a spoon he had taken from his dinner tray to dig a tunnel out of his prison cell, only to reach no father than the cell next door, Orson discovers that the background for the cell next door is the exact same one from the previous scene. Aloysius informs him that he's using the same background because it saves money that way.
- Gawayn: Xiao Long manages to dig a very long tunnel in an attempt to help himself and the other questers (sans Roderick) escape jail in an episode with a fork.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "The Gungan General", during the first escape attempt Dooku uses the Force to nab a knife next to an abandoned pirate meal and uses it to open the cell door.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: In "Gang Busters", Rocky and Mugsy use spoons to dig their way out of prison. Near the end of the episode, when Monty gets arrested, he is put in the same cell as Rocky and Mugsy. Rocky hands him a spoon and says, "Start diggin', chump!".
- The June 1962 Alcatraz escape was accomplished with, among other implements, spoons stolen from the dining hall. The escapees widened the opening of the ventilation ducts leading into their cells by chipping away at the concrete with their stolen spoons.