Title: Escape Artist
Directed by: Noam Pitlik
Written by: Howard Leeds, Chris Hayward, and Danny Arnold
Air Date: April 10, 1975
Previous: The Guest
Guest Starring: Roscoe Lee Browne, Leonard Frey, Danny Dayton
"Escape Artist" is the 11th episode of the first season of Barney Miller.
It's the usual two-criminal plot structure. In the first plot, an informant brings Capt. Miller intelligence of the whereabouts of an escaped convict, Charlie Jeffers. The 12th promptly arrests Jeffers, who has spent decades escaping from prison after prison after prison all over New York State. Barney discovers that Jeffers, a soft-spoken, erudite man, got a short sentence for stealing a car when he was a young man, but has spent some three decades in prison on escape charges. Jeffers explains that when he figured out that he could escape from prison basically at will, he found himself unable to sit tight and serve out a sentence.
The second plot involves a fellow named Gusik, nabbed by the 12th as he was standing on the ledge of a building...with a pair of wings. It turns out he wasn't a jumper, he was going to try and fly. Barney has his men call Bellevue, but Gusik insists that he isn't crazy and his wings will work.
In a third plot line, Harris has gotten the idea to write a novel based on his own experiences as an NYPD. This became a story arc for nearly the whole run of the show.
- And the Adventure Continues: As Jeffers and Barney are talking, Jeffers muses that he's losing the drive to escape as he gets older. Barney suggests just riding out the rest of his sentence and getting out for good, and Jeffers agrees. However, the prison official who comes to take Jeffers away boasts that they've built a room for him that's "100% escape proof."Jeffers: I really wish he hadn't said that.
- Bad to the Last Drop: This episode was the first instance of a joke about the terrible coffee at the 12th, which would become a Running Gag for years. Barney asks if any crimes have happened while he was out, and Yemana says "Coffee?"Barney: I would hesitate to call our coffee a crime. A shame, maybe. [sips his coffee, grimaces] That's a crime.
- The Cloudcuckoolander Was Right: At the end Barney is told that Gusik broke loose from the Bellevue men, ran to the roof of the 12th Precinct with his wings, jumped off the roof... and gently glided to the ground. When one of the cops says that they finally got Gusik into the truck and took him away, Barney says "Why?".
- Foreshadowing: When Chano hears that Harris is using real-life stories for his book, he says "Hey, man, you can't use real people! You'll get sued!" This pays off six seasons later when Arnold Ripner the lawyer does in fact sue Harris over Harris's book.
- The Informant: A guy named Harry whom Barney has experience with comes into the precinct, and sells Charlie Jeffers' location for $100.
- Prison Escape Artist: Charlie Jeffers, who has escaped from prison six times. He lets himself out of the holding cell to use the toilet, to the shock of the detectives.
- Roof Hopping: The cops of the 12th had to chase Gusik over three roofs before they finally caught him. Wojo says "He almost got airborne!"
- Shout-Out: Gusik's enthusiasm for all his crazy dreams—he's also going to swim the Atlantic Ocean—causes him to burst into a surprisingly tuneful rendition of "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha.