Our heroes, Dave and Sarah, are busy minding their own business, when all of sudden Alice (for it is she) arrives, looking all distressed and unhappy. She tells the following heart-rending story: Her nephew Bob was an aid worker in Central America, namely a military-ruled state (The Deep South will do the job just as well).
As he was driving along, the police pulled Bob over and found drugs in his car. He swore they weren't his, but the cops took him into custody. Now, he's in a really nasty prison, and he suffers from a medical condition that will kill him if he doesn't get treatment soon.
Alice asks Dave and Sarah to hop down to the country in their Cool Plane (she has connections) out of the goodness of their hearts. As a further incentive, she offers them a lot of money. Dave and Sarah agree. They head to the country and employ various techniques to attempt to get Bob out. They try persuasion, distraction and, if those don't work, good old-fashioned firepower.
See also Spanish Prisoner, which shares minor similarities and is always a confidence trick. The Jailbird of Panama can be, but usually isn't.
A pun on the title of the novel The Tailor of Panama.
- The basic premise of Brokedown Palace, only we the viewers experience from the viewpoint of the two girls who are in jail.
- The plot of the Charles Bronson movie Breakout.
- Bananas is basically a parody of this trope.
- Airwolf did this on at least two occasions.
- MacGyver (1985) did at least once.
- They also subverted it once: after breaking the aid worker out, he turns out to be a gunrunner, and Alice is a KGB agent who needs him free.
- The IM Force of Mission: Impossible did it to rescue one of their own in "Death Squad".
- Prison Break Season 1 and Season 3 basically run on this trope.
- And the third season just so happens to be set in Panama, where several characters are jailed.
- The A-Team has done this at least once.