This content contains content which is suitable for viewing by those 18 years of age or older. By proceeding, you confirm you are 18 or over.
In West Baltimore, the narcotics and homicide divisions begrudgingly launch a sprawling investigation at the insistence of a frustrated judge.
Led by Lt. Daniels, the half-hearted detail focuses on Avon Barksdale and his partner, Stringer Bell, the two men behind a drug operation that reigns in the high-rises. Barksdale and Bell are also responsible for a string of murders - raps they always manage to beat. Despite resistance from up high, the Barksdale investigation will culminate in a complex series of dangerous wiretaps and surveillance.
Told from the point of view of both the police and their targets, the series captures a universe of subterfuge and surveillance, where easy distinctions between good and evil, and crime and punishment, are challenged at every turn.
01 - The Target
"When it's not your turn." - McNulty
Baltimore Homicide Detective Jimmy McNulty drops in on the murder trial of a young drug dealer named D'Angelo Barksdale. From his vantage point in the back of the courtroom, McNulty observes who is there and is himself observed, by associates of Barksdale and by the presiding Judge Phelan.
A witness to the murder, William Gant, is called to testify and positively identifies Barksdale as the shooter at the crime scene. Next on the stand: a security guard who witnessed the killing and who, despite having previously identified the killer, is suddenly unable - or unwilling - to finger Barksdale. In short order, D'Angelo is acquitted of the murder.
Across town, Narcotics Detective Shakima "Kima" Greggs waits patiently in an unmarked car on a drug stakeout, accompanied by a woman who has set up her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend for a bust. After the deal goes down, Narcotics Detectives Thomas "Herc" Hauk and Ellis Carver order the driver of the car and his female passenger to lie on the pavement. When Greggs arrives on the scene, she shows her senior colleagues who is the smarter cop when she searches the car more thoroughly than Herc or Carver and finds two additional guns hidden in the back seat.
Back at the courthouse, McNulty is called into Judge Phelan's office, curious to know why he's attending a trial that does not involve him. McNulty explains that D'Angelo's uncle Avon Barksdale and his partner Stringer Bell, are reigning terror in the high-rises and are apparently behind as many as a dozen murders a year, raps they always manage to beat. "Who's working them?" Judge Phelan wants to know. "Nobody," McNulty answers. The reason, he explains: the force is too busy doing community policing.
When McNulty returns to his office, Sergeant Jay Landsman tells him that his boss, Major William Rawls, wants to speak with him immediately. The Major is furious that McNulty spoke with the Judge. He is also furious because he's been called on the carpet by the Deputy Commissioner about Avon Barksdale, a man Rawls knows nothing about. McNulty is ordered to have a full report on Barksdale by eight the next morning.
D'Angelo Barksdale, now off the hook, is driven back to Orlando's Gentlemen's Club by his uncle's business partner Stringer Bell. When D'Angelo expresses relief at the verdict and amazement over the way the security guard suddenly went dumb, Bell pulls the car over and reminds D'Angelo of the rule. "Don't talk in the car or on the phone or any place that ain't ours." When they arrive at the club, D'Angelo is greeted by his uncle Avon, who is unhappy over the murder D'Angelo committed and reminds him that turning the security guard required time and money. Chastened, D'Angelo prepares to leave when Avon hugs him and kisses his head. "You family," he says.
Nevertheless, when D'Angelo shows up to oversee the drug trade at the Towers the next morning, Stringer is there to tell D'Angelo he's being reassigned to the less prestigious low-rise projects. At the low rise, affectionately called the Pit, the junkie Bubbles and his friend Johnny buy heroin with crudely made counterfeit money. When they try the same trick the next day, Johnny is caught and beaten severely.
After McNulty files his report, he is warned by Sgt. Jay Landsman that another such stunt will likely leave him walking a beat in the Western District. When McNulty seems unconcerned, Landsman asks about his worst-case scenario. "The boat," McNulty says, laughing. The marine unit.
Narcotics Lieutenant Cedric Daniels is ordered to organize a detail to pursue Barksdale, but in a half-hearted manner. Daniels brings in the narcotics detectives under him, with McNulty sent by Rawls from homicide. When McNulty arrives at the detail, late, his new colleagues are already pissed-off at him for starting all this trouble.
When Daniels tells McNulty of the buy-and-bust scheme, McNulty rebels, saying the way to catch Barksdale is with surveillance and wiretaps. "He's been running the Towers for years and we don't even have a picture of him," McNulty says. Lt. Daniels disagrees: "No mikes. No wires. We do this fast and simple." "In the meantime", Daniels says, "we're going to go back through unsolved murders to see if we can't find one to hang on Barksdale."
McNulty visits his old pal FBI Special Agent Fitzhugh, who expresses gratitude to McNulty for the C.I. (confidential informant) he sent to the FBI. He astounds McNulty when he shows him a TV screen with a live shot of a major drug operation at work across town, the technology far superior to what the city detectives are given. When he tells McNulty that this is the last drug case the FBI has pending in Baltimore, since most agents have been reassigned to the war on terror, McNulty responds: "What? We don't have enough love in our hearts for two wars?"
McNulty goes drinking with his partner William "Bunk" Moreland and complains about his ex-wife, who prevents him from seeing his two kids enough. D'Angelo goes to Orlando's for a drink and passes on a pretty stripper who approaches him. And Greggs arrives home, where she is kissed by her girlfriend.
The next day, Greggs, at a hospital, runs into Bubbles, her sometimes informant, who is distraught over the badly injured Johnny. Bubbles asks if Greggs is still working drugs and tells her he has something for her. Greggs realises that Bubbles information is tied to Barksdale, the target of her new detail.
In the projects meanwhile, another dead body turns up in the middle of the street with two gunshots in the head. The victim: William Gant, the man who identified D'Angelo Barksdale as the shooter in his murder trial. Passing by, D'Angelo sees the body, recognises who it is. The younger Barksdale, realising that Gant has paid with his life for having testified, wanders off into the streets with his conscience tearing at him.
02 - The Detail
"You cannot lose if you do not play." - Marla Daniels
Detectives McNulty and Bunk visit the city morgue to view the body of William Gant, the state's witness in D'Angelo Barksdale's ill-fated murder trial. McNulty is convinced that Gant was murdered by the Barksdale organization, to send a message.
Lieutenant Daniels, who's been given a mixed bag of cops to create a case against Avon Barksdale, leads several members of his team to their new "office," a dungeon-like space in the basement of Mitchell Courthouse.
McNulty risks another visbeiit to Judge Phelan to inform him that Gant - a witness in his courtroom - has been murdered. McNulty asks Phelan to pressure the police department's Deputy of Operations to open an investigation, but Phelan refuses, telling McNulty to go the press. McNulty says that will compromise the investigation, and asks Phelan this time to please keep his name out of any information he passes on.
Lt. Daniels tells Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman that the powers-that-be are sending him a message by the police they chose for his detail. "I can't build anything with the garbage they sent me," Daniels says. "If they gave me good policemen, I might do good police work." Daniels conclusion: "He's being told not to dig deep into this case; just slap an indictment on Barksdale and get out."
Greggs, Herc and Carver do surveillance from the Towers' roof with the help of Bubbles, the scruffy, heroin-addicted C.I. He has volunteered to inform on the Towers drug dealers to even the score after they beat up his friend Johnny. Bubbles shows up with a bag of hats to sell to the Towers drug dealers, and each time he puts a red hat on a man, Greggs shoots pictures from the roof. The red hat identifies the dealers in photos.
Meanwhile, McNulty and Bunk show up at the low rise projects to intimidate D'Angelo. They take him downtown to interview him but first Daniels insists that Greggs participate. McNulty resists, but slowly realizes she is a smart cop. They play to D'Angelo's vulnerabilities, convincing him that the dead witness Gant was a church-going family man whose wife is dead and whose three children - showings him a picture of Bunk's three kids to corroborate this - now have no parents. D'Angelo is clearly moved, and agrees to write a letter to the three kids, telling them he is sorry their father was murdered. As he finishes the letter, his uncle's attorney Maurice Levy shows up and berates him for writing or saying anything at all.
After Judge Phelan calls Deputy Commissioner Burrell's office about the murder of the witness, McNulty's boss, Major Rawls, is even more furious, and threatens to pull McNulty off the case. Burrell points out if they do that, the Judge will go make a stink in the press and the city will be up in arms. So, says Burrell, "We're going to sit tight and hope that McNulty comes up short."
His crew complete, Daniels calls them all together in the task force's basement Detail Room to make introductions and announce partners. Detectives Greggs and Sydnor, Herc and Carver, Mahon and Polk (two drunks waiting on retirement), McNulty and Santangelo, and the screw up Roland "Prez" Pryzbylweski (Prez is the son-in-law of Major Valchek, commanding officer of the Southeastern District with an ear in the Mayor's office) with Detective Lester Freamon (a quiet cop who spends his day building dollhouse furniture).
Later, McNulty and Greggs try to convince Daniels that the apology letter D'Angelo has written is a valuable document. "Why apologize if you have nothing to apologize for?" Greggs asks. But Daniels doesn't buy it. Meanwhile, at a church gathering, where Avon and Stringer Bell are helping serve food, D'Angelo arrives with his eleven month old son and the boy's mother, Donette. Stringer admires Donette while uncle and nephew talk. D'Angelo tells Avon what happened when he was taken downtown, and is chided when he reveals he wrote a letter to Gant's children. D'Angelo is clearly fearful of being chastised by Avon.
Greggs and Bubbles scrutinize the surveillance photos, putting names to each member of the Towers' drug team. Meanwhile, Herc, Carver and Prez, stoked on beer, put in a 2 a.m. appearance at the Towers and bust heads. Things go terribly wrong when Prez punches one of the kids in the eye, and as the situation escalates, bottles, air conditioners and other debris reign down on the trio. They claim the kids in the project jumped them. Daniels is angry, but protects his officers anyway.
"You should have hung them," Daniels' wife Marla says of Prez, Carver and Herc, whose victim has lost an eye. "The department put you on a case it doesn't want," she says. "If you push too hard and any shit hits the fan, you'll be blamed for it. If you don't push hard enough, and there are no arrests, you'll be paying for that, too. The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play," she tells him.
03 - The Buys
"The King stays the King." - D'Angelo
In the fallout from the ruckus at the Towers - including a looming Grand Jury investigation - Lieutenant Daniels reluctantly covers for his detectives, saying he sent them to the projects in the middle of the night. "If I tell you I knew they were going, I screwed up," he says to Deputy Commissioner Burrell. "If I tell you I didn't, I get my officers in trouble...I screwed up." However, Daniels does insist that Prez be placed on desk duty. Major Valchek, Prez's father-in-law, says he owes Daniels for helping Prez, and promises Daniels two new cars and a surveillance van as well as some recording equipment to further the investigation.
The recorders, however, turn out to be a joke, bulky and out-of-date. So McNulty calls upon his FBI pal Fitzhugh to ask for better ones.
At a press conference, Burrell, Rawls and Bunk deny that the killing of the witness Gant had anything to do with D'Angelo's murder trial.
Still unable to identify Avon Barksdale, McNulty asks Polk to try and get a picture from the housing project's security office. When Polk returns with a photo of a white man, Freamon recalls that Barksdale used to be a Golden Gloves fighter and wrangles a photo of the drug kingpin on an old boxing poster. McNulty's respect for Freamon grows.
McNulty, complaining about his wife's continuing failure to honor his visitation rights, learns that Greggs is a lesbian, and tells her that the only good female cop he's known was also a lesbian. Greggs responds: "All I know is I just love this job."
D'Angelo visits Orlando's Gentlemen's Club, owned by Stringer and Avon through front man Orlando. When D'Angelo delivers cash from his operation, Stringer is impressed with the haul, commends D'Angelo and gives him a bonus. D'Angelo complains that the quality of the drugs they are selling has gone down and the junkies are unhappy. Stringer's response: "They're fiends. What do we care." D'Angelo is approached by Shardene, a stripper who becomes more interested when D'Angelo brags that Avon is his uncle and that he's "his right hand man."
Detective Sydnor shows up in the Detail Room dressed as a junkie, preparing to go to the projects with Bubbles to buy drugs. Bubbles advises him to take off his wedding ring, yellow his teeth, get some track marks on his hands and lose 20 pounds. Nevertheless, he manages to make a buy from D'Angelo's gang.
Lt. Daniels arrives and says they've been ordered to hit the projects and make arrests in a few days. Greggs protests that they don't even know which doors to hit, but Daniels says to hit the stash houses. "Man upstairs wants to see a circus. In a couple of days, we gotta show them three rings." McNulty refuses to take part, saying he won't help gut the case they are trying to build.
Instead, he visits Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman at home in the evening, ostensibly to ask for instructions on cloning a beeper to monitor calls the Barksdale's gang receives. After explaining how he can do that, they end up in bed together - not for the first time.
Meanwhile, Omar, a legendary Baltimore stick-up artist, stakes out Avon's drug operation with a plan to steal his stash. D'Angelo is off buying sandwiches when the stash is stolen and one of D'Angelo's boys is shot in the process. During the heist, Omar's boyfriend Brandon calls Omar by name. Bubbles, perched nearby, sees the robbery go down.
The next day, the cops - without McNulty - swoop into the projects and round up the drug gang. But they break down the wrong door and are unable to find the stash. During the bust, D'Angelo's boy Bodie hits Detective Mahon in the face and is beaten badly by the other cops, including Greggs.
Later, drinking beer in his car, McNulty meets up with FBI pal Fitzhugh, who tells him that Lt. Daniels is "dirty." "He has a couple hundred thousand more in assets than any police lieutenant should have," says Fitzhugh, whose FBI unit had been asked to do a study on Daniels. It's been more than a year, he says, and "we're waiting for something to happen."
04 - Old Cases
"It's a thin line 'tween heaven and here." - Bubbles
Detective Mahon dramatizes his injuries sustained during the unproductive low-rise bust and, resisting Daniels' plea that he continue, says he wants out on a medical disability.
Meanwhile Bodie, who's incarcerated at the Juvenile Services Boys Village, escapes by simply walking out the unattended door to the facility. At about the same time, Carver and Herc, with dreams of glory, head for Boys Village hoping to sweat Bodie until he begins to squeal. "Then we break the case wide open," Herc says.
At police headquarters, Burrell is disappointed to learn that despite all the "hand-to-hand" drug buys the squad has made, none of the project denizens will flip and name names. "In that part of town," McNulty says, "Barksdale carries more weight." Sgt. Landsman brings in an old murder case of a young woman, Diedre Kresson, shot after being visited by someone named "D." That, and a now disconnected phone number for a friend of the victim, are the only evidence that might lead to the Barksdales.
Back home, Omar and his two boys count their money and enjoy the success of their robbery. Omar is mildly perturbed that Brandon called him by name during the robbery, but only because "I don't want them coming down on y'all, baby boy," he says, giving Brandon a kiss. Stringer and Avon are furious that they've been robbed and tell D'Angelo to put the word out that there's a bounty on the heads of Omar and his gang.
Upon Bodie's swaggering return to the low rise, D'Angelo brags that he's tougher. He once killed his uncle's girlfriend after she threatened to drop the dime on him.
Searching for Bodie, Herc and Carver bust in on an elderly woman who is Bodie's grandmother. After searching the place, Herc apologizes to the woman for his profanity and she asks him to sit down, whereupon she describes Bodie's tough upbringing, which included a mother who was a drug addict. Herc leaves his card with her.
Sgt. Landsman meets with Major Rawls and asks him to consider cutting McNulty some slack. "He can't help it," Landsman explains. "He's a good policeman. Last year he gave us eight collars." Rawls responds that if McNulty can wrap up the Barksdale case in two weeks, he can come back with a clean slate.
Lt. Daniels reports to Burrell that the case against Barksdale is progressing slowly, and that McNulty says what the case needs is a wire. Greggs meanwhile tells McNulty that her C.I. Bubbles has named Omar as the one who made off with Barksdale's stash. "And if he knows where the Barksdale stash is, he probably knows a whole lot more."
McNulty makes the case to Daniels that they need to clone the Barksdale pagers - set up duplicate pagers that they can read - if they're going to progress on the case. Detective Freamon impresses McNulty further when he shows him a pager number scrawled on a wall that he discovered during the low-rise bust, a number he says belongs to D'Angelo.
Bunk and McNulty visit the vacant apartment of Diedre Kresson, the young woman killed in the old murder case they've been asked to work, to see if there's a connection to Barksdale. The partners conduct the entire investigation, needing barely a word between them to communicate. They find two bullet casings overlooked in the initial investigation, and are pleased when they learn later that they match the casing in two other murders that may be connected to the Barksdales.
McNulty and Freamon go drinking together. Freamon tells McNulty that he was busted down to the pawnshop unit 13 years ago after he refused to follow the Deputy's orders, and he's been moldering there ever since. Fremon's advice to McNulty: "Do yourself a favor. Keep your mouth shut."
05 - The Pager
"... a little slow, a little late." - Avon Barksdale
Avon Barksdale is paranoid, and begins to worry that his phones are tapped. Stringer Bell visits D'Angelo and urges him to keep his boys alert in the wake of Omar stealing the stash at the Pit. Stringer also hatches a plan with D'Angelo to smoke out what Stringer and Avon believe is a snitch in D'Angelo's crew. "Don't pay your team," Stringer says. "The ones who don't ask for an advance when their money runs out obviously have another source of income, and those are your snitches."
Judge Phelan signs off on the clones for the beepers. Things remain tense at the Pit. When one of D'Angelo's boys lolls lazily while supposedly on lookout, Bodie throws a beer bottle at him, cutting him. D'Angelo is inclined to object but at that moment gets a page - a page that arrives simultaneously at the Detail Room.
Barksdale's crew is using a code for the pagers that puzzles the cops. Greggs wonders "How complex a code can it be if these knuckleheads are using it?" It is Prez who breaks the code, making his first positive contribution to the squad's work.
Bubbles visits his friend Johnny in the Green Hill Hospice Center, where he's recovering from his beating and his heroin addition. Johnny reveals to Bubbles that they say he has the Bug: AIDS. In one breath Johnny talks recovery lingo but in the next, he's asking Bubbles which neighborhood has the best dope these days. Bubbles brags that he's been working with the police as an informant.
At Police Headquarters, Sgt. Landsman is exuberant over the forensics break in the three murder cases. Bunk tells McNulty he's convinced that whoever killed Diedre Kresson also committed the other two killings, "and those two are straight-up drug executions." Together, they visit the friend, Towanda, and learn that in fact, Avon Barksdale was the dead girl's boyfriend. That was, until she threatened to inform on him when she found out she was being two-timed. Towanda also mentions that Avon and Stringer own not only Orlando's but numerous other companies.
At Orlando's, D'Angelo learns from the bartender that Stinkum is no longer on salary but is working for a percentage since he's opening a new territory for Stringer and Avon. D'Angelo is frustrated at being passed over for promotion, but does manage to put a move on Shardene, the stripper who had come on to him earlier.
Outside the club, McNulty, Daniels and Greggs are on a stakeout to see what goes on there. "What kind of gentleman's club has a video camera on the outside?" wonders McNulty. And not only does Barksdale own the club, he owns a warehouse, an apartment building and a tow-truck company.
Meanwhile, Avon takes D'Angelo to visit his uncle, who is comatose from a bullet wound to the temple. Even though they could afford a fancy nursing home, they have to keep the uncle here so they don't show advertise the fact that they have plenty of money. D'Angelo is uneasy during the visit, but Avon reassures him that it's important. "Cause it's family, that's what it's all about, family" Avon is remorseful of the fate of his brother: "Be a little slow, a little late. Just once."
McNulty and Greggs meet with Omar and explain that they have a common problem: Barksdale. They want him to give up what he knows about Barksdale but Omar is reluctant. "Me snitching?" he says. "I don't think the game should be played that way." McNulty tells Omar that he respects that, but purposely lets it slip that Barksdale killed Bailey, one of Omar's men. Omar then gives them a lead on Avon's boy named Bird, who Omar says killed Gant.
When two of D'Angelo's boys, Wallace and Poot, go to a convenience store and spot Omar's boy Brandon playing the pinball, they phone D'Angelo to tell him. Dee in turn calls Stringer Bell, who takes his crew to the spot. Stringer praises Wallace and asks him to point out Brandon to his thugs. D'Angelo later receives a call from Stringer Bell at the same payphone: "Done. Nice work, cuz." The detail computer tracks the calls, but in a deserted office, without the manpower for night time surveillance.
06 - The Wire
"... and all the pieces matter" - Freamon
D'Angelo's boy Wallace awakens to a grim scene outside the abandoned rowhouse that he shares with a group of parentless children. The brutalized corpse of Omar's boy Brandon is splayed across the hood of a car. Wallace gets all the kids off to school, handing each of them a juice box on their way out the door. As the police arrive and cordon off the crime scene and Wallace realizes it is Brandon's body, it dawns on him that it was his phone call that set this killing in motion.
D'Angelo has hooked up with Shardene, the stripper from Orlando's, who is in his kitchen preparing breakfast and sees pictures of his son on the fridge. She asks if D'Angelo is friendly with his son's mother. Dee tries to play down their relationship but also manages to offend Shardene with his answer.
The police squad now has taps on the courtyard phone at the projects, but Herc is unhappy to learn that they are allowed to listen only to those calls involving one of the Barksdale suspects. He is told he must continue doing surveillance at the Towers and must notify the cops in the Detail Room who exactly is using the phone, so they know which calls they're allowed to listen to.
Barksdale's attorney Maurice Levy represents Bodie at his court appearance. He assures the Judge that Bodie will straighten up if he's allowed to return home. The Judge buys it and puts Bodie on a home monitoring system.
Omar contacts McNulty for one last look at Brandon in the morgue. He is distraught after McNulty shows him Brandon's tortured body, and reverses his previous refusal to help the cops get Barksdale. When Greggs tells Omar she's looking for an eyeball witness to pin the Gant murder on Bird, he offers his services.
After Johnny's release from rehab and a successful score, Johnny and Bubbles have a drug-fueled celebration. It is short-lived, however, when Johnny is busted. Bubbles mumbles about his luck, but goes to Greggs to help out Johnny once again.
McNulty's plan to score brownie points with Rawls backfires when Rawls reads the report on the link between the three murders and decides he wants warrants issued for D'Angelo Barksdale immediately. McNulty is furious when he learns of Rawl's order, convinced that there isn't sufficient evidence to convict D'Angelo and that the rest of the investigation will be blown if they're forced to bring charges. Avon Barksdale will change his patterns immediately. "And what he don't change up he'll clean up," adds Greggs.
They decide to ask Daniels to appeal the order with Rawls. Daniels does, with great reluctance, and Rawls turns him down. Then Daniels goes over Rawl's head, and in a tense meeting with Rawls and Burrell, Burrell overrules Rawl's order and gives Daniels another month to wrap up the case.
At the projects, Stringer and Avon put in a rare appearance, delivering the bounty money they promised for anyone who brought in Omar or his crew. Wallace gets $500, as does D'Angelo, and Wee-Bey and Bird get money, too, "for doing the muscling up," Avon says. D'Angelo lies to Avon on the matter of who's not asking for cash advances, suspicious that Wallace may be involved. Later, trying to school Wallace in their ways, he explains that if he ratted them out, he'd get a baseball bat in the head.
Rawls is angry again that McNulty has succeeded in stalling his push for arrest warrants in the Barksdale case. He calls Detective Santangelo in and says he wants Santangelo to keep an eye on McNulty. Reluctantly, Santangelo finds himself at Rawls' mercy and forced to snitch on his partner.
07 - One Arrest
"A man must have a code." - Bunk
Prez, it turns out, has another unexpected gift: the ability to decipher the slurred, streetwise slang of the drug dealers. In the Detail Room, he's the undisputed champ of grasping the meaning of the wiretapped conversations, a talent he developed, he explains, from listening to the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar." "I used to put my head to the stereo speaker and play that record over and over."
Rawls presses Santangelo to come up with something negative on McNulty but Santangelo resists, saying, "It's not my job to fuck another cop." Rawls says he better come through with something he can use against McNulty, and in the meantime assigns Santangelo to the unsolved Denise Redding murder case for him to close.
The squad lays plans to bust the Barksdale crew as they re-up the stash which, they've learned from the wiretaps, Stinkum and a runner will be carrying the next morning. The plan is to get the stash without revealing their wiretap. The bust goes down precisely according to plan, with Stinkum getting away and the stash - four packages of street-ready heroin - captured. Stink goes to a pay phone to inform Stringer of what's happened, a conversation that is taped at the Detail Room.
In a meeting with Judge Phelan, McNulty lays out the progress of the Barksdale case in order to convince the Judge to extend the wiretap authorization for another 30 days. The Judge is surprised to learn that Daniels went up against Rawls to prevent the investigation from being blown. And he assures McNulty that he's a friend, if he has trouble with his bosses, which McNulty assures him he does.
At the behest of Bubbles, Greggs rescues Johnny from drug court so that he gets probation instead of jail time, as long as he attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings. At a NA meeting, Johnny is bored but Bubbles is affected by the speaker, a recovering addict named Walon, and indicates that he'd like to straighten out his life. Later, however, he gets high again.
When D'Angelo visits Stringer and Avon at Orlando's, Stringer tells him he thinks D'Angelo has a snitch on his crew. After D'Angelo leaves, the Barksdale gang continues to mull over the bust and Stringer concludes: "Something is up; something is definitely up."
Later Stringer comes to the projects and makes procedural changes, ordering the project's pay phones destroyed and telling the crew if they need to make a phone call, they must walk a few blocks to a new one, and never use the same phone more than once a day.
Omar directs Greggs and McNulty to another part of town to find Bird, because, he explains that Avon won't have his men buying dope in the Towers. Sure enough, Bird turns up and is promptly apprehended. Forensics determine quickly that the gun Bird was carrying matches the bullets from the three murders. Unless he gives up Barksdale, Bird will likely face the death penalty. Bird however, remains hostile, prompting Daniels to enter the interrogation room and beat him severely.
In the Pit, Orlando approaches D'Angelo about going into business together and selling drugs, offering an even split. D'Angelo seems interested. Wallace has been scarce since Brandon's murder, coping with his guilt by snorting heroin in his apartment.
Omar, who is at police headquarters, explains that he ratted Bird out because Bird killed a regular citizen. "I do some dirt, too, but I never put my gun on nobody who wasn't in the game," he explains. "A man must have a code," Bunk replies, the irony lost on Omar. Bunk also asks Omar if there are any more murders he can help them with, and Omar coughs up details on another: the murder of Denise Redding. When Omar hears the beating Bird is getting, he observes: "Bird sure knows how to bring it out in people, don't he?"
Santangelo arrives at headquarters and he is given the solved Redding case, including two witnesses and the name of the shooter. Santangelo realizes that McNulty and Bunk saved his ass. Appreciative, Santangelo confides in McNulty that Rawls is out to bust him out of the department.
McNulty, distraught at the news Santangelo has given him, visits Rhonda Pearlman at home. "It's about Rawls. He's after my badge," McNulty explains. "They're gonna do me, Ronnie." She is sympathetic to his plight, knowing that the job means much more to McNulty then he would like to let on.
08 - Lessons
hile shopping with his kids, he has his sons play a spy game in which one leads and one follows the target. The kids tail Bell to his car and write down his license number, but not before McNulty loses track of his boys in the market.
With both phones at the low
09 - Game Day
"Maybe we won." - Herc
Avon and Stringer watch basketball practice at a local junior college and pay $10,000 to one of its players so he'll play for them in an upcoming game between the East and West projects. Afterwards the player leaves, they discuss Omar. Stringer again advises that they call a truce and wait for Omar to emerge. Avon is concerned about the message that would send about his standing in the community.
Wallace tells D'Angelo that he wants out of the game. At 16, he feels there's still hope for him, and he says he wants to go back to school and finish the 9th grade. D'Angelo gives him some cash, and Poot later observes Wallace buying drugs.
The wiretaps reveal that Wee-Bey will be picking up cash from the Towers shortly, so Herc and Carver follow him and take the money, which amounts to $22,000. "We don't have a charge," they tell him. "We just got your money. You want it back, you can explain to the state's attorney where you got it."
In the Detail Room, Freamon instructs Sydnor and Prez on the finer points of combing through corporate papers and public records to unearth Barksdale's hidden ownership in front companies. "It's a brave new world for you boys," he tells them. Freamon also collects campaign finance reports from the Board of Elections, to determine if Barksdale is supporting any candidates.
Bubbles, waiting to score at the low rise, is embarrassed when he encounters a speaker from the previous day's Narcotics Anonymous meeting, but again says he would like to get straight. He visits his sister, who is under-whelmed to see him. After he reiterates that he wants to get off drugs, she reluctantly gives him a backdoor key so he can stay in the basement.
As they unload the cash they seized from Wee-Bey, Herc and Carver discuss stealing some of it, but Carver points out the folly of doing so. "Say we turn in 20 and keep 10, and the bosses hear we took 30 outta that car on the wiretap. You didn't think of that did you?" But later, to their surprise, they are accused by Daniels of stealing some of the cash anyway. They deny it, now each suspicious of the other. When they go back to their car and find the missing money in the wheel well, Carver is relieved, and apologizes to Herc for doubting his word.
Omar swaggers into the low rise with a shotgun in plain view, demanding Avon's stash. The project residents scatter and he stands below a window insisting that he'll be back each day until he gets what he's after. Suddenly, a stash bag drops from a window. "Fair enough," he says, and leaves. Herc and Carver arrive shortly after and are puzzled by the empty project courtyard. "Maybe the whole thing's over and nobody bothered to tell us," says Herc. "Maybe we won." Carver senses something is up and suggests they go for a drive. When they do, they discover the basketball game in progress, being played in front of a huge crowd from the projects.
Greggs and Freamon pick up Shardene and take her to their office to talk. The show her the body of her fellow dancer and friend, who died at Wee-Bey's and Stinkum's recent party. She weeps when she sees her friend, whose body was rolled in a carpet and disposed of. Well spoken and forthright, she acknowledges that she dances at Orlando's but says she doesn't use drugs and isn't a hooker. Greggs and Freamon leave her for a moment and discuss flipping her. "I think she's a sweetheart," says Freamon, "and we push her hard enough, she'll tumble."
Shardene explains that she's involved with D'Angelo but, now horrified, says she realizes that she has to quit her job. Freamon presses her to stay on a bit longer and help him gather information. She packs her things at D'Angelo's apartment, and when he asks her why she's leaving, he's taken aback by her response: "Do I look like someone you can roll up in a rug and throw in the trash?"
Bodie and Poot turn up at the basketball game and encounter Herc and Carver, who then realize that Avon must be there too. Since they don't know what he looks like, they call the Detail Room to let the squad know, and Daniels and other crew members scramble so they can get a visual on Avon. Avon's team loses and he drops $100,000 in a bet with Proposition Joe Stewart from the east side. When Avon leaves, he's followed by several cars from the squad, leading them on a cat-and-mouse chase that ends when he drives by Daniels, wagging a mocking finger at him.
Omar shows up in the office of Proposition Joe Stewart, Avon's rival, and bargains with him. Omar gives him Barksdale's stash and says in return he wants two things: the number for Avon's pager and the code one of Avon's boys uses when he beeps. The deal is done. Later, outside Orlando's, Omar beeps Avon, and shoots at him when he steps outside to a pay phone to respond to the beep. Wee-Bey arrives at the same moment and shoots at Omar, hitting him in the shoulder. Avon is shaken but unharmed.
10 - The Cost
"And then he dropped the bracelets..." - Greggs
After his failed attempt to kill Avon, Omar lays low, afraid even to go to a hospital because Avon's boys, he believes, will be waiting on him in the parking lot when he gets out. Avon at last seems willing to take Stringer's advice, and Omar receives word that Barksdale wants a truce. Omar agrees to meet Stringer in person to discuss the terms. Stringer meanwhile tells Avon he should give up his phone, not touch any drugs, make no money runs and replace his pager with a New York pager number. "We gotta build a wall around you, B," Stringer says to him.
Omar tells Greggs and McNulty that Barksdale has sent out a peace message to him. "If I stop hitting them in the head for their product, they gonna call off the bounty," he says. A wired up Omar then meets with Stringer Bell and asks for money as part of the truce. Omar tries to get Stringer to implicate Avon on the tap, but Stringer is too careful to make that kind of mistake. McNulty convinces Omar to play it safe by hiding out in New York City. McNulty sees him off at the bus station, giving him money and urging him to stay in touch. "We'll need you for the Bird trial," he says.
Judge Phelan is losing friends and political support because of his assistance in the Barksdale investigation. Pearlman shows McNulty a campaign fundraising flyer from which Phelan has been excluded. When McNulty asks why, she answers: "Maybe it's the company he keeps." Nevertheless, the Judge is willing to sign another 30-day extension on the Barksdale phone taps.
Bubbles makes a valiant effort to go straight. He meets with Walon, who urges him to "forgive your own self. Love yourself bro, and drag yourself to some meetings." Greggs is irritated when Bubbles summons her but listens sympathetically when she learns he's been clean for three days and seems serious about getting off dope. What he needs he says, is a couple hundred dollars to get a place, some clean sheets and new clothes. Greggs jokes with him, "What the fuck am I gonna do with a clean informant?" but is willing to help and asks him to wait until tomorrow for the cash.
D'Angelo is less than thrilled when Donette, the mother of his son, makes plans to move back in with him. During a vist, she begins to list the things they're going to need, including a bigger apartment, a new bedroom suite and a new sofa. D'Angelo leaves without warning during her recitation of what she wants.
At the Detail Room, the squad has detected a beeper pattern they want to investigate further. When Barksdale's drug stash runs low, a call is made over one of the tapped phones to an unknown pager, and a call comes back from a pay phone in Pimlico. Staking out the Pimlico phone, the squad follows the caller back to a most unusual house. In a conventional middleclass neighborhood, the house has security cameras covering every angle and heavy window guards all around.
Daniels asks Prez if he's ready for street duty again, and sends Sydnor and Prez on the back of a garbage truck to Pimlico. When the truck picks up garbage from the house they're watching, the two detectives take it back to the Detail Room and sort through it, finding major drug related evidence, which they photograph.
Orlando, still determined to get in the game despite Avon's warning, is busted by a narcotics officer when he tries to buy four ounces of coke. In jail, his claim that he can buy weight from Barksdale gets the attention of Daniels' squad as well as Deputy Commish Burrell, but McNulty is skeptical. "He caught a charge and now he's talking out his ass," he tells Daniels. Burrell has also heard of Orlando's claims and pressures Daniels to set up a buy-and-bust using Orlando. Meanwhile, Attorney Maury Levy visits Orlando in jail, asking him to sign documents transferring his liquor license and the club to someone else. "A front has to be clean, and right now, you aren't that," Levy tells him. "You wanted to be in the game. Now you're in the game."
Wallace, determined to get out of the game, is collared by McNulty and begins immediately to tell what he knows. He picks out pictures of Wee-Bey, Stinkum and Bird and says all three were at the convenience store the night Brandon was murdered. He also says he pointed out Brandon to Stringer himself. Daniels wants to keep Wallace safe until a Barksdale trial but a hotel is impractical, so he drives Wallace to his grandma in the country.
D'Angelo waits in front of Orlando's for Shardene to come to work, but she rebuffs his attempt to talk. At work, she is all ears, even listening through Avon's office door after she delivers drinks to the boys there.
McNulty's wife is furious about the spy game he had the kids play with Stringer Bell, and is asking a judge to allow only supervised visits. McNulty asks Rhonda Pearlman to represent him in an emergency hearing in family court. The Judge is reluctant to comply with the visitation request and asks that the two parents try and resolve the matter while the Judge goes for lunch. McNulty's wife is incensed that he's asked Pearlman to represent him, since his affair with Pearlman was one of the reasons behind the breakup of the marriage. McNulty assures his wife that he not only loves the kids but he still loves her, too.
Daniels tells his squad that the DEA has lent them $30,000 for a buy-and-bust operation in which Greggs will pose as Orlando's girlfriend as they make a purchase from Avon's boy Savino. Pearlman reminds Orlando that his plea bargain is contingent upon his cooperation. The car is wired but the cops don't have visual contact and when Savino directs them to a dark neighborhood, Daniels' squad does not know where they are. Savino takes Orlando's money and says he'll be back, but instead, shooters appear and fire into the car, killing Orlando and injuring Greggs badly. Daniels and his team hear the violence over the radio, but lose precious minutes locating them. McNulty performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Greggs to keep her alive until an ambulance arrives.
11 - The Hunt
"Dope on the damn table." - Daniels
Greggs is in the hospital unconscious from gunshot wounds in her neck. At the crime scene, Bunk discovers that her gun, which she'd hidden under the seat of the car in which she was shot, had slid away and she was unable to retrieve it to defend herself when the shooting started. Rawls finds that the street signs nearby have been tampered with, which meant Greggs was unable to radio her proper location.
Wee-Bey beeps Stringer from a pay phone near the shooting. The call is traced to the pay phone later, connecting Stringer to the crime, and while there are no fingerprints on the phone, a soda can nearby yields the prints of Little Man, one of Barksdale's crew. Wee-Bey reports to Stringer that the heist went well, but Stringer informs him that the woman they shot was a cop.
Major heat will come their way, so Wee-Bey must hide out in Philly for awhile. D'Angelo is ordered to drive Wee-Bey to Philly, but he is suspicious that this may be a ruse to off him instead. They stop by Wee-Bey's apartment, all the time Dee fearing it is a trap, but Wee-Bey just gives him instructions to care for his tropical fish.
Wallace phones Poot from his Grandma's because he's homesick for Baltimore. Bubbles, still straight and still waiting for cash from Greggs, beeps her and is picked up by cops moments later at a pay phone. He agrees to return to the projects and observe who is missing among Barksdale's crew. McNulty gives him $20 to get high, but Bubbles holds on to the money and stays clean, reporting later that Little Man, Savino and Wee-Bey have disappeared from the Towers.
Barksdale attorney Maury Levy assures Rhonda Pearlman and McNulty that if Savino calls, Levy will advise him the police are looking for him and he should turn himself in. McNulty has heard enough lawyer double-talk and insists the hard way that Levy have Savino in police custody before day's end. He not only insults Levy in his tirade, but Pearlman too, who backs McNulty's threats to Levy nonetheless. Levy coughs up Savino, and when Savino is informed that he will go to prison for three years, he responds cockily: "I can do the three. Ain't no thing."
Burrell is on the warpath again, and tells Daniels the police commissioner wants citywide raids on every known suspect in the case. "We want dope on the table for the six o'clock news." Daniels tells his squad the news, but says they will not raid the Pimlico drug house that is Barksdale's main supplier, since to do so would compromise their case. Burrell however learns of this scheme and warns Daniels that he'd better include the Pimlico house. Daniels concludes that there's a snitch in his squad who tipped Burrell off. McNulty asks Judge Phelan to overrule Burrell's order to include the Pimlico house, but the Judge refuses.
The citywide busts go down, and although the Pimlico connection is not home, the cops find a huge supply of drugs and a large pile of cash in his house. Herc and Carver each help themselves to a stack of bills before reporting their find. After the busts, Burrell holds a press conference, and indeed the drugs are on the table.
The report on Greggs is that she has swelling on the vertebrae and indications of partial paralysis, which may go away when the swelling recedes.
12 - Cleaning Up
"This is me, yo, right here." - Wallace
Greggs' condition has stabilized but McNulty is distraught and determined to feel guilty about her being shot. Drinking heavily, he's been unable to bring himself to visit her in the hospital or even call. "Avon Barksdale," he tells Daniels, "was just a way for me to show everyone how smart I was and how fucked up the department is. It was never about Avon Barksdale; it was just about me." Daniels calls him on his self-pity and says the case will move forward with or without McNulty.
Stringer arrives at the Pit and collects beepers from everyone in the operation. He gives cell phones to D'Angelo and Bodie and orders everyone else "off the air." And when they do use a cell phone, he instructs, use it just to set up a meeting and then talk face to face.
Freamon has convinced Shardene to wear a wire to work, in the hopes that he'll pick up incriminating conversations. When she does, it's clear she's risking a lot with little hope of overhearing anything important. She's frightened, too, and begs Freamon to let her off the hook, but he needs one more thing. He wants to insert a fiber-optic camera and mike in the wall of Avon's and Stringer's office and needs inside information on its precise location. Shardene agrees to help once more.
Avon's attorney Levy helps Stringer and Avon focus on their vulnerabilities. Together they enumerate their weak points and come up with what is essentially a hit list, which includes the security guard who lied to save D'Angelo as well as Little Man, who killed Orlando, and Wallace, who can connect them to the death of Brandon.
Burrell tells Daniels the investigation is finished now that the wiretaps are useless, and he holds out the possibility of a promotion for Daniels. Daniels nevertheless resists, pointing out that the court order is for 90 days of wiretaps, and that it hasn't yet expired.
Pearlman is taken aback when her boss inquires as to why Daniels' team is pulling campaign-finance reports on local politicians, and volunteers that he's checked his own contributors' list and is returning money to people he doesn't know. "I want you to take it back to whoever's on the hunt and make it clear they have no quarrel with me," he tells her.
When Avon and Stringer express interest in Wallace's whereabouts, D'Angelo reassures them that Wallace is out of the game and in fact has moved away. When they persist, he tells them, "Let the boy be." Wallace, however, is bored in the country and returns to the projects to ask for his job back. Bodie and Poot are dispatched to kill him and they do.
Burrell summons Daniels to his office to meet Sen. Clay Davis, whose driver had been picked up with $20,000 in cash from the projects. "That was a misunderstanding of no concern of the police," Davis assures Daniels. Daniels leaves after persisting in his interest in the $20,000, and Davis is furious: "You need to put his ass on a foot post so far out in the sticks he's gonna see the Philadelphia cops working towards you," he tells Burrell.
With a wire installed in Avon's office, the squad can see Stringer and Avon packing things up to move. They also see Avon asking D'Angelo to make a New York City run that evening to pick up drugs. Reluctantly, D'Angelo agrees, and before he leaves, the squad attaches a tailing device to his car. He's stopped and arrested after he makes the pickup, and is defiant when Daniels and McNulty try to flip him by showing him pictures of Wallace and the security guard Avon had murdered. "That's how you take care of your own?" McNulty asks him. But when Stringer and Levy come to visit him in jail, he is defiant with them, too. "Where's Wallace, String?" he asks over and over. As they leave, D'Angelo yells that he'll get his own lawyer.
D'Angelo's mother visits her brother, Avon, angry that he's put her son at risk. When Avon says he's sorry, she says, "Sorry ain't gonna get him out of jail." Avon reminds her that he's provided her with a car and an apartment. "We all got a lot to protect here," he says. "You need to remind him of that."
Daniels is again on the carpet in the office of Burrell, who once more demands that the investigation end and Barksdale be arrested. Daniels protests that with the slender evidence he has, he can only put Barksdale in jail for a short time, and reminds Burrell that "these are the people responsible for dropping a police." Burrell threatens Daniels that if he doesn't end the case, Burrell will release a compromising FBI report that could end Daniels' career. "You'd rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel," Daniels says. "You can order warrants and I'll serve 'em, but as long as I have days left on those dead wires, this case goes on."
Outside Orlando's, a S.W.A.T. team readies itself for action, but when Daniels and McNulty arrive, they simply knock on the club door and enter when it's opened. There is no drama, Daniels cuffs Avon and, leaving Stringer to ponder the future, marches Avon out.
In the Detail Room, Sydnor says to Freamon, "Best work I ever did. Just feel like this ain't finished." At the Pit, the courtyard is empty. For the first time in a long time, no drugs are for sale.
13 - Sentencing
"All in the game." - Traditional West Baltimore
Bunk goes to the hospital to visit Greggs, who is conscious and though weak, able to name Little Man as her assailant. Pushed by Bunk to ID Wee-Bey, she refuses. "The other one was out there in the dark," she says.
The squad arrests 20 other people in the Barksdale case and Avon is quickly out of jail on a quarter-million-dollar bail. He and Stringer meet Levy in an underground garage. It's "the only place we can safely talk," says Levy, who urges Avon to consider a structured plea: "That means you gotta deliver all your people - all of them - down to a man." Later, Avon and Stringer go to the funeral parlor they own and begin setting up a new office. "We gotta be back up quick," says Avon, "'fore we lose the Towers."
D'Angelo is feeling talkative in jail, and McNulty, Pearlman and Bunk are all ears. He acknowledges he sold drugs for Barksdale, attended meetings and delivered money. They show him photos of five people Avon has had murdered: Gant, the security guard, Wallace, Orlando and Deidre Kresson. Shaken, D'Angelo admits to calling Stringer about Brandon's location and implicates Wee-Bey in Deidre's death, adding that Wee-Bey is hiding in Philadelphia. He also implicates Avon in the death of Wallace and is remorseful about the 16-year-old. "I should'a done more," he says. "But I didn't. That's on me." Saying he was freer in jail than he was at home, D'Angelo says he wants to start over. "I just wanna go somewhere - anywhere - where I can breathe like regular folks," he says. "Gimme that, and I'll give you him."
Pearlman is ecstatic after the meeting, telling McNulty "The drugs! The money! It's a career-fucking-case." As McNulty awkwardly tries to apologize for the insults from the meeting with Levy, Pearlman starts to unbutton his shirt. "Like you never did it in the headquarters' garage before."
McNulty finally gathers himself to visit Greggs in the hospital. She presses him for details on the case, but he tells her to give it a rest. Becoming emotional, McNulty tells her how sorry he is. "On a case like this, it's always you or Sydnor or some other black cop who ends up going undercover." She asks him for a favor, and gives him money for Bubbles. But when McNulty passes it on, it becomes clear that Bubbles is no longer clean.
Through a phone company contact, Freamon and Bunk track down Wee-Bey in Philly and he is arrested. McNulty, Freamon and Daniels meet with the Feds to see if they can convince them to come in on the case. But the Feds are interested only if the case will deliver crooked politicians, and McNulty is outraged when he realizes they would try to flip Barksdale and lighten his sentence. "West Baltimore is dying and you empty suits are running around trying to pin some politicians' pelts to the wall!" The discussion ends.
Brianna visits D'Angelo in prison and, ignoring her son's desire to join the witness protection program and start over, leans hard on him to protect Avon, not implicate him. "How you gonna start over without your peoples?" she says. And she is successful. Pearlman soon gets a call from D'Angelo's new lawyer, Maury Levy.
Levy, also representing Avon, acknowledges that Avon may get hit with one count of attempted possession. But the violence, Levy says, will land on Wee-Bey for killing Orlando and wounding Greggs. As for property assets, the cops can seize the strip club, the cash in Avon's safe and "whatever cars and trucks you link to the drug trafficking," Levy says. The other property assets - the funeral parlor, the copy shop and the empty storefronts are untouchable, and Stringer Bell goes free, since there's nothing to implicate him.
Wee-Bey, choosing life in prison over the death penalty, agrees to cooperate and confesses to nine murders, including ones he didn't commit, in order to exonerate Bird and others in the Barksdale gang. As for D'Angelo, choosing to protect Avon, with two prior convictions, prosecutors are asking for 20 years.
Daniels learns that Carver was his detail's snitch. Freamon goes to work in Rawls' unit. And McNulty is reassigned by Rawls to harbor detail - the one job he dreaded, just as Landsman predicted.
Avon is in jail, and Stringer is back in business at the funeral home. Bubbles and Johnny are back on the prowl, looking to score. Omar returns to town and sticks up a dealer, saying "All in the game... all in the game." And back at the projects, with Bodie taking over a tower and Poot the Pit, the beat goes on...