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"Convicts At Large" - My Favorite Episode of The Andy Griffith Show

When I was pretty young, one of the many things I remember fondly was laughing with Mom and Dad at television late into the night.  Well, for me at that age, late was about 8pm.  In the summertime, the windows would be open, and several times, Granny (who lived next door) would ask what we were laughing so hard at the following day when I went over to play.  

Frequently, what we'd be laughing at would be The Andy Griffith Show.  

A staple of TBS during its early days, The Andy Griffith Show, or "Andy" as we called it, was just pure wholesome fun.  As Americana as Aunt Bea's apple pie, the show depicted the widowed Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), the Sheriff of a fictional small town of about 2500 people called Mayberry, North Carolina.  Other characters include Andy's cousin, the well-meaning and enthusiastic deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts); Andy's aunt and housekeeper, Bee Taylor (Frances Bavier); and Andy's young son, Opie (Ron Howard).

My wife rolls her eyes when I put the show on some nights, but just as my Dad watched it because he remembered it fondly from his childhood, so do I.  In the crazy world that we live in today in 2022, it's nice to just sit back and picture what I envision the quiet, calm, small-town 1950's America was like.  I'm sure it's just Hollywood-level quaintness, but it's nice to dream about what could have been... and what I think still ought to be.

This one's a long one, so without further ado, please click "Read More" and join me on a look back at my favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show,  Convicts at Large.

The 74th episode of the series, Season Three's "Convicts at Large," is my favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show.  Originally airing on December 10, 1962, this episode centers around Barney (Don Knotts) and Floyd the barber (Howard McNear).  The two run out of gas while returning from a fishing trip and, while looking for a telephone, are captured by three escaped female convicts.  

We open to the iconic opening credits, whistled by music composer Earl Hagen.  I always loved this opening and thought it set the mood perfectly for the show to come.  While Andy and Opie are walking down to the Mayberry fishing hole, the two are really walking down to the pond in Franklin Canyon Park, near Los Angeles, California.  Franklin Canyon Park was also used to film scenes in the 90s kid's sitcom Salute Your Shorts as well as the Bat-Cave exterior scenes in the opening credits to the 1960's Adam West version of Batman.  Mayberry's old fishing hole was also used for the creepy lagoon scenes in the original Creature from the Black Lagoon.

After the credits, we see the outside of a prison at night.  Sirens wail and guards rapidly shine spotlights around the yard, searching for someone.  We cut to what seems like the following day as three women quietly creep amongst trees in a forest.  

First out of the brush is Big Maude Tyler, played by Reta Shaw.  Reta always reminded me of Anne Ramsey, who played Mama Fratelli in The Goonies or Momma in Throw Momma From The Train.  Both frequently played strong, working women on the wrong side of the law but Reta may be best known as the cook in Mary Poppins, even though her experience in film and television is quite extensive.  Later in The Andy Griffith Show series, she appeared in "The Song Festers," where she played Barney's vocal coach.

Big Maude is soon followed by Naomi (Jean Carson) and Sally (Jane Dulo).  Jean Carson appears in my favorite episode of The Twilight Zone titled "A Most Unusual Camera."  In that episode, she is the girlfriend of a criminal who finds a camera that takes photos of the future.  They use the camera to their financial benefit at the race track, but it all ends with deadly consequences.  Jean had a full career on film, television, and stage but is likely best known for her role on Andy Griffith... but not from this episode.  She appeared later in the series, three times to be exact, as Daphne, one of "the fun girls" from Mount Pilot that would come down from the 'big city' to flirt and dance with Andy and Barney.  

Jane Dulo, a character actress that has been in seemingly every sitcom made during the 60s and 70s, only appeared this once on The Andy Griffith Show.

The three escaped convicts discover a vacant hunting cabin and head inside.  Through just a few lines of dialogue and body language, we quickly establish Big Maude is the ring leader. 

Meanwhile, we cut to the Sheriff's Office in Mayberry, where Andy listens to a crime bulletin on the radio about the escaped women.  A funny joke lists the aliases of Big Maude:  Maude Tyler, Big Maude Tyler, Clarise Tyler, Maude Clarise Tyler, Annabelle Tyler... and Ralph Henderson.  

Andy mutters to himself that it would be just like Barney to "be off fishing today," establishing that the Deputy is out of town.  With that, we see Barney behind the wheel of a sputtering car that has just run out of gas.  Seated next to him is Floyd Lawson, the barber.  After bickering about a shortcut that made them run out of gas, Barney puts on his police uniform "just in case" they need to hitchhike.  

The two then stumble upon "the old O'Malley" place.  The lights are on, but Barney mentions that he thought O'Malley was away in Detroit.  Naomi spots them walking down the road from inside and calls for Big Maude's help.  Big Maude says not to worry, that she has a plan to get rid of them.  When Barney calls out for Mr. O'Malley, she yells out, "NOBODY'S HERE!"

After Barney explains their need for gasoline, Maude opens the door to invite them in.  Clearly still in her prison uniform with her prisoner number on it, Floyd accepts her explanation the uniform is from the "Girl Camper's of America" troop.  Barney immediately senses something wrong and screams, "THEY'RE CONS!" as the girls jump him and take away his pistol.  Big Maude immediately realizes that the gun is unloaded, and questions why a policeman would have an unloaded pistol. 

Floyd spills the beans, however, explaining that Barney is only allowed one bullet in case of emergencies.  When Maude demands he hand over the bullet, Floyd goes so far as to tell her that Barney keeps it in his front left shirt pocket.  Sally immediately takes a liking to Barney, telling Maude she thinks "the cop is kind of cute" and that Barney reminds her of Al from the old Cascade Club in Toledo.   The two share "the same dumb face, weak chin, and round shoulders."  

The dimwitted Floyd starts anxiously looking at his watch and once again spills the beans that Andy will come looking for Barney if he's not back by a specific time this afternoon.  Big Maude decides that "Al" can fix that right now by phoning the Sheriff and saying he's spending the night with O'Malley at the cabin.  Barney demands to be called by his real name and questions what happens if he refuses to make the call.  

When the girls get intimidatingly close with the gun, Floyd whispers, "You better call him, Al."  

Floyd calling Barney by Sally's ex-boyfriend name several times is probably one of the funniest gags throughout the show, if not the entire series.  I don't care how often I've seen this episode; I still laugh whenever Floyd calls him Al.

Barney makes the call and tells Andy he won't be home because he and Floyd are too tired, and O'Malley offered for them to spend the night.  Andy says he thought O'Malley was in Detroit, but nothing was going on and tells Barney to have a good time.  Barney quickly tries to tell Andy that he's being held prisoner by those women speaking in Pig Latin, but Andy had already hung up.  Maude warns the deputy if he tries anything like that again, she's gonna let Naomi "curl his hair" with the gun.  Naomi begs for the chance because, after all, she's a convicted husband beater who hates men.  

Floyd leans in and says, "You better watch it, Al."   

The girls soon get cabin fever and turn on the record player.  Dancing by herself, Sally reminisces about the Cascade Club in Toledo and asks "Al" to dance.  Barney refuses but Big Maude forces him at gunpoint.  Resigned to dancing, Barney begs to at least be the one who leads.  

Naomi asks Floyd if he wants to fight while Floyd encourages Al to be "light on his feet."  When Sally changes records, Naomi cracks Floyd over the head with a ceramic bowl because her wedding song brought back bad memories.  

Later on, Floyd is forced to recite a shopping list for groceries.  Sally wants to stay and dance with Al, but Maude chases them off.  While holding the gun to Barney's head, she reminds Floyd that "any funny business and Al gets it."  

In town, Andy sees Floyd loading the groceries into the car and runs over to say hello.  Nervously, Floyd says everything is going great, and "even Al is having a good time," before trying to get into the car.  The barber quietly points out Sally sitting in the driver's seat, but Andy misunderstands.  He thinks O'Malley, Barney, and Floyd are having a romantic weekend in the woods with some ladies.  Still trying to make Andy aware of their predicament, he again says it's just O'Malley, himself... and Al.  

When Andy asks who Al is, Floyd only whispers, "Al dances with Sally."  

Andy suggests cutting out of work early and joining him, but Floyd quickly says if Andy were to join them, then it's "goodbye, Al!"  Andy laughs and agrees that "eight's company, nine's a crowd" and wishes him a good time. 

As Floyd and Sally drive away, a bus pulls up, and Mr. O'Malley (Willis Bouchey) steps off.  He calls out to Andy, who quickly realizes something is fishy somewhere.  Andy offers to drive O'Malley out to his cabin, and the two head off to find out what's happening at the cabin.

Back at the cabin, Naomi is trying to fistfight with Deputy Fife, but Maude demands her turn to dance with him.  Just as they begin, Floyd returns home with arms full of groceries.  He happily proclaims, "We're home!"  

Sally goes outside to get a bucket of water while Andy and Mr. O'Malley look on from the bushes.  When she returns inside, Sally notices Naomi is cooking all of the hamburgers rare.  

Questioning Barney, Sally asks:  "Al, honey, Naomi is making them all rare.  As I remember, you used to like your burgers well done."  Barney frustratedly yells back, "No!  Medium rare!"  

Sally sullenly responds, "You've changed, Al."  

While the exchange over how Al has changed occurs, Andy secretly reaches through the kitchen window and empties the water bucket.  Naomi, thinking Sally didn't fill the bucket, takes it and heads outside to fill it herself.  

When she places the bucket under the pump, Andy makes his move.  He slaps a pair of handcuffs on her wrist while O'Malley covers her mouth with a handkerchief and drags her off to the waiting police car.  

Inside, Maude sees that the burgers are burning and sends Sally out to see what's keeping Naomi.  As she leans over the railing, Andy and Mr. O'Malley replicate the maneuver before dragging her off to the squad car, too.

Maude puts Barney in charge of cooking and instructs him to clear the smoke out of the kitchen.  While waving a towel towards the window, Andy pops his head up into view.  He tells Barney to get "the big one" to come outside, but Maude interrupts and sends Barney back to the couch.  Floyd is happily eating a banana and gives Al a big dumb smile.   

Maude changes the record in the player and Barney rises to his feet, offering to dance the tango with her.  He keeps trying to take the lead and begs her to relax and let him guide her to the land of "rhythm and pleasure."  While dancing, he opens the front door of the cabin bit Maude is immediately suspicious.  Asking why he opened the door, Barney nervously says he can't stand crowded ballrooms.  Thankfully, she accepts that answer and cracks up laughing.  

He attempts to get her to dance toward the door several times before successfully getting her outside.  Andy pounces, and the two finally capture the third escaped convict.  

While Andy gently teases Barney, an exasperated Floyd comes running out of the front door with a line that still slays me:  

"Maude, Al... if those hamburgers are ruined, I won't be responsible!"

As the episode comes to a close, days later, Barney is acting humble while bragging about how he remained cool and calm but poor Floyd didn't know what to do with himself.  Andy humors him, saying Floyd probably doesn't realize how lucky he is to have had Barney by his side through the ordeal.  Finding the evening paper outside the Sheriff's Office door, Barney is distraught to see the headline that reads "LOCAL BARBER CAPTURES ESCAPED CONVICTS!"

This episode was written as a satire of the 1953 best-selling book, 1954 Tony award-winning play (starring Paul Newman), and 1955 movie (starring Humphrey Bogart) called "The Desperate Hours."  The book, play, and movie cover the well-known real-life prison escape of 3 male convicts and their invasion of a suburban Pennsylvanian home inhabited by the Hill family.  The family was treated well while held hostage, and the convicts were caught when they finally left the house.   The Andy Griffith Show writers thought the situation would be funnier if the convicts were made into women.  

This was also the last appearance of Howard McNear (Floyd the barber), who suffered a stroke and left the show immediately following filming.  He would return toward the end of season four, but his character was noticeably different as the actor suffered severe damage by the stroke.  He stayed until the end of season 7, but this episode was the last leading role for the character.

During the episode, Maude uses the phrase "Acka Backa" when shooing Sally and Floyd into town for groceries.  I was curious, so I did a little googling for you.  The phrase "Acka Backa" refers to a children's nursery rhyme: "Acka backa soda cracker, acka backa boo.   Acka backa soda cracker, out goes you!"  A reference lost to time, but in context, makes total sense.

Another fun fact I found while researching this episode is that this is one of only three episodes in the entire series where a female is shown smoking.  

This episode is my favorite of all 249 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.  I can even remember the first evening my Dad and I sat watching this episode.  We were laughing so much at the "Al" schtick that my Mom even popped her head into the living room to see what was so funny.  Apparently, we aren't the only ones who like this episode so much.  It's one of the two highest-rated episodes on IMDb, with a 9.4 based on user ratings.  It's tied with "The Pickle Story," an episode that focuses on Aunt Bee's homemade pickle business.  The pickles are terrible and Andy and Barney's plan to replace them with store-bought backfires.  

Do you enjoy this episode as much as I do?  Do you have a different favorite episode of "The Andy Griffith Show?"  Leave a comment below and let me know!  


  1. I wonder what the name of the tango is that Barney and the big woman dance to? A catchy tune for sure.

  2. Hi Tiger, thanks for reading. I've spent the past few days looking for the version of the tango Barney and Big Maude dance to, but I haven't had any luck, sorry. If I had to guess, it was just an in-house orchestra. Not what you asked for, but, Naomi and her husband's "song" that upsets her earlier in the episode is an orchestral version of "Poor Butterfly."

  3. Would love to know the name .

    1. I was disappointed that no one came up with the title to that song they were dancing to. My research has failed to come up with it as well.Very nice and fit the scene perfectly.

  4. Floyd's car appears to be a 1934 Pontiac, 2-door sedan, from what I can tell. At the time of filming (October 1962) would have been only 28 years old. Rita Shaw was marvelous in her role as "Big Maude" Tyler; (also known as Clarice Tyler, Maude Clarice Tyler, Annabelle Tyler and Ralph Henderson).

  5. Regarding the hamburgers Sally temarkd to Al (Barney): Al, honey, Naomi is making them all rare. As I remember, you used to like your burgers HARD.”

  6. Hard? You're right, it is! Wow, guess my brain translated it. Or maybe I should get my ears checked. :)