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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Trilogy: 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.
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Magician: At the start of "Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", a reclusive movie star being held prisoner by her shady business manager has managed to uses 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.
- 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.
- Inmates in Prison Architect can steal cutlery from kitchens. Knives are weapons, and spoons can be used as digging tools.
- 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 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 seenplus, 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.
- On the Tex Avery cartoon Cellbound, a prisoner uses a spoon to dig his way out, taking him twenty years to do so.
- 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.
- 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.