Everyone is feeling the heat in Baltimore. As Stringer Bell looks to diversify and Omar looks for revenge, the drug war is a losing campaign.
Bodies are piling up and a desperate mayor demands to see some victories before Election Day. But the police are running out of ammunition - wiretaps aren't working, and neither are stakeouts or street busts. Can one senior officer's radical reform really make a difference?
01 - Time After Time
"Don't matter how many times you get burnt, you just keep doin' the same."
The Franklin Terrace housing project - the infamous Towers where the Barksdale drug gang operates - are razed, with a promise from Mayor Royce that low and moderate-priced housing will eventually replace them. Poot is upset, nonetheless: "I'm kinda sad. Them towers be home to me," he tells Bodie, who derides his sentimentality. "You gonna cry over a housing project?" he asks. Poot responds that he has a lot of good memories growing up there, including losing his virginity to Chantay in 7th Grade. Bodie suggests that she gave Poot the clap - more than once. "Don't matter how many times you get burnt," he says. "You just keep doin' the same."
Lieut. Daniels' taskforce is still chasing drug dealers - notably Proposition Joe's drug enterprise, and Detectives McNulty and Sydnor are holed up in a vacant house in East Baltimore watching Prop Joe's soldier, Cheese working the corner.
Back at the Detail Office, Freamon, Prez and Officer Caroline Massey listen in as one of Cheese's deputies - never Cheese himself - talks on his cell phone. "Three months and we've yet to hear his [Cheese's] voice on a phone," notes Freamon with resignation. After six months of taps and no real case to make, Daniels is frustrated too, and to McNulty's consternation, suggests they don't renew the wiretap order when it expires in two weeks.
At Barksdale funeral-home headquarters, Stringer Bell convenes his drug crew, running the meeting according to Roberts' Rules of Order. The dilemma they face is that their prime drug territory - the Towers - no longer exists. The crew focuses on new corners they want to take over, but Bell has a bigger plan. "Game ain't about territory no more," he says. "It's about product." Pointing out that fighting over street corners means dead bodies, and bodies bring the police, Bell unveils his plan to become the drug supplier to other drug operations in town. Because he has the best product, he's confident the idea will work.
Bubbles and Johnny continue to get high. Their latest scheme - heisting a cast-iron radiator for a few bucks, goes perilously awry when the grocery cart they're pushing the radiator in crashes into a Cadillac SUV that belongs to a crewmember of the Barksdale rival drug lord, Marlo Stanfield. Marlo emerges while his soldier holds a gun to Johnny's head. "Do it or don't," Marlo says indifferently, "but I got some place to be."
At City Hall, the City Council, specifically Councilman Tommy Carcetti - is raking new Police Commissioner Burrell and Deputy Commissioner Rawls over the coals because crime in Baltimore is up. After the meeting, Carcetti takes Burrell to lunch and makes him an offer. If Burrell will quietly let Carcetti know when the Mayor won't give Burrell what he needs to run the police force properly, Carcetti will deliver. "I know you can't cross the Mayor publicly, but you come to me and I can use that subcommittee to give you what you need." Royce is offended, turns him down and leaves, telling Carcetti that he's loyal to his Mayor.
Avon, with only a short time left on his prison sentence (thanks to the deal he cut after naming the prison guard he framed in the heroin-strychnine swap ), meets with Wee-Bey and Dennis "Cutty" Wise, from the old neighborhood. Cutty is due for release after 14 years in prison, and Avon wants to recruit him. He gives Cutty a number to call for help making a reentry, and tells him he can offer employment as a soldier in his operation. When Cutty leaves, noncommittal about his intentions, Barksdale speculates that "the joint mighta broke him."
Daniels, in a meeting with Burrell, learns that the promotion Burrell promised is being held up by the Mayor. The reason: Daniels' wife, from whom he is now estranged, wants to run for City Council, which means she'll be running against a friend of the Mayor's, Eunetta Perkins. "The Mayor," says Burrell, "is going to want to know who his friends are before he makes a new commander."
Later, at Marla's request, Daniels goes home to keep up appearances while she meets with State Delegate Odell Watkins and other political advisors about her impending entry into politics. Her team wants to picture Daniels in his police uniform in her campaign literature, and Daniels - distraught about his estrangement from Marla - is more than willing to cooperate. "All those years when you were all about my career, this is the least I can do," he tells her.
McNulty and Bunk take in an Orioles game at Camden Yard, where he's meeting his ex-wife Elena so she can pass the kids to him. He also sees her new boyfriend and is none too happy. Soon, Bunk's mobile phone rings and he's called in to work on his day off because a raft of new cases has come in.
At City Hall, Carcetti repays Burrell for his rebuff by ripping the Commissioner for wasting money. In a meeting later with the Mayor and his Chief of Staff, they share their disdain for Carcetti. "If the man came off any whiter, he'd be see through," says Mayor Royce. Burrell wants the Mayor to speak to Carcetti, to try and call him off, but the Chief of Staff explains that Carcetti is "old First District. Not a lot of favours we can call in over that side of town." The Mayor suggests that if Burrell can get the murder and felony rate down, that will take the wind out of Carcetti's sails.
At Comstat, Rawls and Burrell go on the warpath, ripping their commanders for their inability to stem the rising tide of crime. Rawls orders that felony cases must drop by five percent for the year, and murders must be kept under 275.
"Here's a fun fact," Rawls tells his commanders. "If Baltimore had New York's population, we'd be clocking 4,000 murders a year at this rate. So there is no excuse I want to hear. I don't care how you do it, just fucking do it." Major Bunny Colvin, 30 years on the force and six months from retirement, questions the wisdom of the new mandate: "You can reclassify an agg. assault and you can unfound a robbery. But how do you make a body disappear?" Rawls and Burrell are infuriated, and Burrell warns Colvin: "Anyone who can't bring the numbers we need will be replaced by someone who can."
Still chafing over the fact that the Detail never laid a glove on Stringer Bell, McNulty is unhappy, too, and clashes with Daniels over his unwillingness to authorize more wiretaps to go after Bell. Obsessed with the case, he pulls out the two year old Barksdale records and looks through them for new leads. When Massey observes the mess he's made, she asks him what in hell he's doing. "You don't look at what you did before, you do the same shit all over," he replies.
Cutty, having made a half-hearted attempt to go straight after prison, calls the number Avon gave him and asks for help. Instead of cash, however, Avon's soldier gives him a package of heroin ready for sale. Cutty is nervous, and cuts a deal with a Marlo Stanfield soldier named Fruit to sell the dope for him. But when Cutty comes back to collect his share of the proceeds, Fruit pulls a gun on him and tells him to get lost.
Major Colvin decides to "ride the district" and heads out in his car to take the temperature of the city. What he sees is not reassuring. Stopped at a red light, Colvin is incredulous when a young dealer pops his head in the car window and offers to sell the Major some heroin.
02 - All Due Respect
"There's never been a paper bag."
Omar makes a dramatic reappearance, disguised as an old man in a wheelchair just out of the V.A. hospital. With friend and partner in crime Kimmy, the two con their way into a Barksdale stash house, and in a heist that's almost too easy, make off with the drugs and the cash.
Stringer Bell visits Avon in jail, updating him on the neighborhood news. Avon is philosophical when he learns that the Towers are gone. "All that battlin' we did to take them Towers and now we out in the street with the rest of 'em we beat."
Stringer details his plan to deploy the troops across a variety of drug corners, with instructions to make their high-quality heroin available to other dealers at advantageous prices. "You know, lay it out there like it's their lucky day. No threats. No flexin'," Bell says. Indeed, when Barksdale's drug crews fan out to new territory, pitching their scheme, they encounter a fair amount of skepticism from mid-level dealers.
Bodie, having appropriated a spot in the middle of the dealer Marlo's territory, seeks Marlo out to offer him good prices on better product, but runs into a stone wall. When Marlo finally shows up and Bodie approaches him, Marlo brushes him off. "I need you to walk back there and pack up your people," Marlo warns him. "I'm being a gentleman about it for the moment," he tells Bodie without once bothering to look at him.
Not convinced that D'Angelo Barksdale's death in prison was in fact a suicide, McNulty probes the case further, with his focus still on bringing Stringer Bell to justice. In a visit with Doc Frazier of the Medical Examiner's office, the two of them examine autopsy photos of D'Angelo. What they see is not convincing, and McNulty suspects D'Angelo was murdered. Later, he pays a visit to Donette, fishing for clues as to who might have taken D'Angelo out. Donette is openly hostile to him.
Carcetti, having failed in his effort to enlist Police Commissioner Burrell as an inside source in the Mayor's office and having humiliated him publicly as a consequence, leans on Major Valchek to broker a second meeting with the Commissioner, in the hopes that Burrell is finally ready to deal.
"I should tell him what?" Valchek says to Carcetti. "Make nice or invest heavily in petroleum jelly?" Sure enough, when Carcetti and Burrell meet for a second time, Burrell gets the picture: He must cooperate with Carcetti or face further public flogging in his committee hearings. Giving in, Burrell tells Carcetti he's having trouble getting out-of-service squad cars back on the street, which means beats on every shift go uncovered.
Sure enough, when the two meet again, an impressed Burrell reports that that 20 squad cars will be back in service by the end of the week. Burrell reveals to the Councilman that in spite of the fact that 70 cops are retiring by year's end, the Mayor has cancelled the Academy Class in which new recruits are inducted. Driving a wedge, Carcetti tells him bluntly: "The Mayor fucked you. 'Cos I know that money was in the budget." Carcetti again suggests he can help.
In a vacant West Baltimore warehouse, a collection of local dealers including Prop Joe, Cheese and others gather for an evening of dogfights. Confident that his pit bull will win the match with a dog owned by the dealer Dazz, Cheese's cocky demeanor turns to shock as his dog goes down quickly.
Cheese then shoots his dog rather than give him medical help, and grows even angrier when another dealer, Triage, points out a red rag on the floor that Dazz rubbed down his dog with before the match. Implying that some chemical may have been on the rag, Triage suggests that Cheese was gamed. A few days later, in response, Triage walks up to Dazz's soldier Jelly and with only one word, "Woof," blows his brains out.
In the Detail Room, Greggs, Freamon, Prez and Caroline, listening in on the wire, overhear discussion of the two killings - Cheese's dog and Jelly - and draw the wrong conclusion. When they hear Cheese acknowledge that he "ain't sleep since I capped his ass," they assume he's committed a murder. Greggs notes with excitement: "Cheese is only a level below Proposition Joe. All of a sudden, this case has legs."
Because Rawls' pressure on his commanders is unrelenting, Daniels decides to make some arrests based on information from their wiretap. McNulty argues that the arrests will force them to reveal the tap's existence, and pushes Daniels to be patient to see what else the wire will bring. Cheese is arrested, nevertheless, and when Bunk and McNulty sweat him for details, their error finally becomes apparent. The only thing Cheese has killed is his dog. Bunk and McNulty are appalled at the mistake. "We're charging his ass," says Bunk sarcastically. "Improper disposal of an animal. Discharging a firearm in city limits," adds McNulty. "Animal cruelty, if we wanna run wild with it," adds Bunk. And sure enough, the wire soon goes silent, and gloom overtakes the Detail.
Nursing their wounded pride over drinks later, McNulty tries to get Pearlman to go home with him. She ignores him, and after he leaves, Pearlman goes home with Daniels instead.
Relations are strained between Kima and Cheryl; the latter resents Greggs' long hours and her lack of nurturing instincts towards their new baby. One night when Greggs comes in late, the house is a wreck and Cheryl is asleep on their bed with the baby. Greggs heads back out into the night, visiting a lesbian bar.
A drug bust arranged by Carver's squad goes bad and Dozerman is shot and seriously wounded. Colvin sits bolt upright when he learns the news in the middle of the night. Carver, who sent Dozerman out solo, is wracked with guilt. "Fucking solo cars. I shoulda teamed him. I fucked up." He is especially upset to learn that Dozerman's gun is missing, scooped up by one of the criminals who shot him.
After Colvin visits the crime scene, he unburdens himself over a cup of coffee with a deacon from his church. "Tonight is a good night. Why? Because my shot cop didn't die. And it hit me... This is what makes a good night on my watch: absence of a negative."
Later, as he addresses his troops, Colvin foreshadows the new scheme he's cooking up to contain the city's drug trafficking. Explaining that after the City Council years ago passed a law forbidding the consumption of alcohol in public places, cops spent an inordinate amount of time arresting men on street corners, since "the corner is, was and always will be, the poor man's lounge... But somewhere back in the '50s, there was a small moment of goddamn genius by some nameless smokehound who comes out of a cut-rate one day and on his way to the corner, slips that just-bought pint of elderberry into a paper bag. A great moment of civic compromise. That small wrinkled-ass paper bag allowed the corner boys to drink in peace while giving us permission to go do police work.
"Dozerman got shot last night trying to buy three vials," Colvin continues. "There's never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now." Herc and Carver hear him but don't yet understand the point he's making, and are irritated at his ambiguity.
03 - Dead Soldiers
"The gods will not save you."
The brutality at Police Headquarters continues as Rawls and Commissioner Burrell terrorise Department Commanders over their failure to reign in the city's crime stats. After being raked over the coals in front of his peers, Major Marvin Taylor, the Eastern District Commander, is further humiliated as Burrell publicly relieves him of his duties and names Taylor's second-in-command to replace him.
Omar, along with his soldiers Dante, Tosha and Kimmy, case another Barksdale stash house, making plans to take it out. But when they return later to pull off the heist, things go terribly wrong. Barksdale soldiers in another part of the house are alerted to the robbery and open fire. In the fierce shootout that follows, Tosha is shot in the head and killed, accidentally by Dante, and one of Barksdale's team is killed.Bell is furious when he learns that Omar is still intent on pursuing revenge. Speaking of Tosha, he says, "We're gonna cover that girl's wake, her funeral, everything."
Back home, Omar apologizes to his soldiers, who are depressed and angry. "Don't do nothing for me," Kimmy tells him sullenly.
The drug dealer who shot Officer Dozerman while doing a buy-and-bust is apprehended and - beaten by the police - makes a full confession. He also reveals that he sold Dozerman's gun to a street punk named Peanut. Sgt. Landsman orders Bunk to recover the gun as a matter of principle. McNulty, overhearing Bunk's assignment, says: "In one of the most heavily armed cities in the known, gun-loving world, what do these ignorant motherfuckers care about one goddamn semi-auto, more or less?"
Proposition Joe summons Stringer Bell to a meeting and tells him that the cops have screwed up. He explains to Bell that the cops believed Cheese was talking about killing a person when in fact he was talking about having killed his dog. "They had the phones tapped?" Bell asks. "Don't matter to me none if they did," Prop Joe replies. "Me and the people I keep close, we don't talk on the phone no how." The point is, however, that the cops are still listening.
Carcetti meets with a reporter from the Baltimore Sun and tells him that the Mayor, in a misguided attempt to save money, does not intend to fund a police academy class this year. Carcetti then calls Burrell to let him know he'll be getting a call from the reporter, and Burrell is furious.
Calming down the Commissioner, Carcetti urges Burrell to inform the Mayor that someone has leaked the information to the press. Later, when Burrell meets with Mayor Royce, the Mayor is indeed annoyed about the leak and tells Burrell that he must take the heat when the story goes public.
"Tell the newspaper the academy class was delayed for some reason - lack of recruits, problems in your personnel division, whatever. Just keep it in your shop," Royce says to Burrell. That way the Mayor can step in and announce that there will in fact be an academy class, and he'll look like the hero. Burrell is none too happy about this, but in the end, as Carcetti reminds him, the goal of reinstating the academy class is, in fact, achieved.
In a meeting at the Mayor's office, Burrell blames the State's Attorney for the high crime rate, arguing that the police bring him cases that go nowhere. "The cases are thin," the State's Attorney shoots back, and soon they bicker loudly until the Mayor orders them to stop, warning that they'd both better shape up if they want to hold on to their jobs.
The tension is thick until the Mayor's chief of staff observes: "I don't think any of us wants to get a real job." When Burrell leaves, State Delegate Watkins urges the Mayor to fire Burrell, but Royce refuses, reminding Watkins that he believes in loyalty.
With their wire dead, Daniels reassigns his detail to a drug dealer named Kintel Williamson who is thought to be responsible for three killings in the last four months. Greggs complains loudly that all the work they've put in on Bell and Prop Joe will go to waste, but Daniels is firm. The biggest priority is bringing down the murder rate. McNulty misses this meeting because he's visiting the prison crime scene where D'Angelo's "suicide" took place. At the prison, McNulty puts the belt around his neck that D'Angelo used, but finds it won't tighten properly when he simulates the suicide, proving to him that D'Angelo was murdered.
When McNulty reports this news to Freamon, Greggs and Pearlman, however, they are angry with him for not sticking with the Daniels' plan. "Man took you off a boat, Jimmy," says Freamon. "He wants to peel his unit off - his unit, Jimmy - and go after the target of his choice, it's his call."
Later, Greggs and McNulty go drinking at the railroad tracks, and Kima complains about her relationship with Cheryl. "They know you're police when they hook up with you. And they know you're police when they move in. And they know you're police when they decide to start a family with you. And all that shit is just fine until one day it ain't no more. One day, it's: 'You should have a regular job.' and: 'You need to be home at five o'clock.'"
The next day, McNulty learns that Homicide Detective Ray Cole has died while working out at the gym on a Stairmaster.
The other Police Commanders are busy minimising crime stats by reclassifying their incident reports, but Major Colvin interrupts Mello and the Community Relations sergeant and orders them not to follow suit. When they warn him that Rawls will rip Colvin, he replies, "Five months to my 30, right? Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."
In fact, they cannot take a joke, and Rawls and Burrell are enraged when Colvin shows up at the next meeting with the only departmental felony report to show an increase in numbers. "Sometimes the gods are uncooperative," Colvin offers by way of explanation.
Burrell's response: "If the gods are fucking you, you find a way to fuck them back. It's Baltimore gentlemen, the gods will not save you." After the meeting, when the other Commanders ask Colvin what he's going to do to get Rawls the stats he wants, Colvin again foreshadows the scheme he's hatching and replies slyly: "I thought I might legalize drugs."
Marlo meets with his soldier Fruit and asks why his drug revenue is down so much. Fruit explains that the Barksdale dealers have taken up residence on his block and are stealing customers. Marlo tells him to do something about it. "Take the young guns with you, give 'em a workout." Shortly thereafter, Fruit and his gang show up with bats and inflict serious damage on the Barksdale gang.
Cutty locates his old girlfriend Grace, who has gotten her act together and moved out of the neighborhood. She's married, drives a nice car and teaches school in another part of town. She is less than thrilled to see Cutty, a face from her past, but she is civil to him and even offers to introduce him to a friend who might help Cutty find a decent job.
In a meeting with the cops in his command, Colvin at last reveals the plan he's been hatching; a plan to take back the streets from the drug dealers. The idea is to warn the street level dealers that they can continue to sell drugs, but they must limit their activities to one of three areas of the city full of abandoned buildings. As long as they confine their dealing to these areas, the cops will let them be. But if they don't get with the program, they will be arrested and rearrested until they get the picture.
The cops are outraged by the proposal, which, in effect, sanctions illegal activity. But Colvin explains further: "You need to take the long view here. Once we have them all comfortable, and all rounded up, once they've been there a bit and get used to putting their feet up, playing with the remote, then we move. Then we go back to being police. Look at it this way, gentlemen: would you rather shoot at fish in the ocean? Or gather 'em all up in a few small barrels and start emptying your clips then?"
Carcetti, with his wife and kids, attends a Democrat fundraiser at the Knights of Columbus catering hall. Spotting an attractive woman, he sends his family home and makes a move, later ending up in the woman's room.
Meanwhile, at Kavanagh's Irish Pub, friends and fellow cops of the late Ray Cole gather to uphold a Baltimore police tradition: a final drink with their deceased friend. With Cole lying in state on a pool table, amidst much revelry and maudlin toasts, the cops bid him farewell. "We're police," says Landsman, "so no lies between us: He wasn't the greatest detective and he wasn't the worst. He put down some good cases and he dogged a few bad ones. But the motherfucker had his moments. Yes, he fucking did."
At another wake across town, Tosha's body awaits burial at a funeral home. The place is crawling with Barksdale soldiers, hoping Omar shows his face. Omar mourns from across the street, hidden in the shadows, smoking a cigarette.
04 - Hamsterdam
"Why you got to go and fuck with the program?"
Cops and City Council members meet with angry residents of Baltimore's West Side to reassure them that the police are on top of the drug war in their neighborhoods. The cops also encourage the residents to report drug activity, but the West Siders are having none of it. "My cousin Billy Gant cooperated," one resident reports. "Went downtown and testified. He deader than Tupac today."
Jumping into the fray, Major Colvin takes over the podium and tells the gathering there are no easy answers to the drug problem. "Truth is, I can't promise you it's gonna get better," he says. "We can't lock up the thousands that are out on those corners. There's no place to put them if we could... This here is the world we've got, and it's time that all of us had the good sense to at least admit that much."
When asked what the answer is, Colvin responds: "I'm not sure. But whatever it is, it can't be a lie." As Colvin leaves, the room erupts into angry chaos.
Greggs and McNulty press Bubbles back into duty to gather street intelligence on the Barksdale gang, which has lost its prime territory, the Towers. Bubbles discovers that some of the city's best turf - downtown near the lunchtime crowd looking to score - is now controlled by "a young boy name Marlo." He also offers up the tag number of the Marlo's SUV.
Looking into Marlo's background, Greggs discovers that he was a murder suspect until a witness who'd agreed to testify against him was found dead - two bullets in the chest and one in the mouth - and Marlo went free.
Cutty goes to work with a crew of Hispanic laborers but soon finds that even in doing menial yard work, he's in over his head. Confronted with a temperamental lawn mower, Cutty is unable to get it started until the foreman teaches him how to prime an engine.
Realizing that his foreman is an ex-con himself, Cutty hears counsel that is not heartening: "Yeah it's hot. Every day. And you gonna be riding in the back of that hard truck, bouncin' around, every day. And your back gonna be yellin' at you, every day... I'm just sayin': You wanna stay on the straight, ain't gonna be no big reward to it. This is it right here."
Face to face with the hard reality of the straight life, Cutty seeks out the Barksdale gang, contacting Slim Charles and asking for work. Cutty's reputation has preceded him, and Slim Charles tells Cutty the first thing they need to do is get him a gun. Cutty is amazed to find himself the new owner of a 14-round .45 automatic pistol. "Game done changed," he tells Slim Charles. "Game's the same," Slim replies. "Just got more fierce."
Bunk - under pressure to find Dozerman's gun - rousts a group of West Side dealers and offers them a "get-out-of-jail" card if they can lead him to it. Herc and Carver are skeptical of his approach, but Bunk is unapologetic: "Well, shit, I gotta do something," he says.
At the Detail Room, Freamon and McNulty clash bitterly over McNulty's continued defiance of Daniels' authority. Freamon again points out that the Lieutenant has directed the Detail to nail Kintel Williamson, suspected of drug dealing and murder, but McNulty's continued pursuit of Stringer Bell rankles Freamon. Daniels, Freamon says, has "earned some loyalty." McNulty's response: "Fuck loyalty. And fuck you, Lester. I never thought I'd hear that chain-of-command horseshit outta your mouth."
Colvin lunches with Johns Hopkins officials to discuss his transition out of the police force and into a university job as No. 2 security man, for $80,000 a year.
Daniels and Pearlman learn that Avon Barksdale, having cut a prison deal, is due for a parole hearing soon. Daniels is worried he'll be released, but Pearlman reads a letter she's written to the parole board, pointing out that Barksdale is a major, violent offender. "Parole Commission's not gonna walk him on his first trip to the plate. Not after a letter like that," she reassures Daniels.
McNulty sees his ex-wife Elena at his son Michael's science fair and she reminds him that he's behind on his alimony. McNulty tells her that after the $2,000 in child support every month he doesn't have anything left for alimony. "You signed a separation agreement that gives me another thousand in alimony," Elena reminds him. "I signed the fucking thing 'cause I thought we'd be together," McNulty responds. "You look at how much I make, and I'm not close to being able to pay that much every month."
Colvin's cops spread the word among the street dealers that they must move to the Free Zone in order to avoid harassment by the cops. The dealers are incredulous - uncomprehending - at the new world order. Carver explains it again: "This corner's indicted. We're coming back tomorrow and when we do, everybody wears bracelets - unless you people move your shit down to Vincent Street, down where the houses are all vacant. You do that and we don't give a shit."
"Vincent Street is like Switzerland. Or Amsterdam," explains another cop. "The fuck is that?" asks one of the dealers. Marlo's man Fruit still doesn't get it. "Look: We grind, and y'all try to stop it. That's how we do. Why you got to go and fuck with the program?"
On a hunch, McNulty visits the registrar at Baltimore Community College and learns that Stringer Bell is in fact a student there. He gets Bell's mobile phone number and wanders the halls until he sees Bell in his economics class. Waiting outside the school, McNulty watches Bell emerge and can't resist calling his cell to make sure he's really scored what he thinks he has. Bell answers but McNulty is silent. Later, McNulty trails Bell to a meeting with an architect, a real estate developer and State Senator Clayton Davis. The subject is the Barksdale organization's vast property holdings in West Baltimore. Binoculars trained, McNulty wonders if Bell has really gone straight.
When McNulty returns to the Detail Room, gloating over having scored Bell's cell number, Freamon is quick to take the wind out of his sails. He informs McNulty that he already knows Bell's cell phone number. "I had Prez pull the B-and-B property assessments and the land transfers from circuit court," Freamon says. "Some of the paperwork asked for a contact number."
A step ahead of McNulty, Freamon knows Bell is using the line exclusively for legit business. "From the looks of things," Freamon adds, "Stringer Bell's worse than a drug dealer." "He's a developer," chimes in Prez.
In a bar in Little Italy, Carcetti drinks with a group of old friends, informing them of his intention to run for Mayor of Baltimore. About that time, he sees an old friend arrive - the beautiful Theresa D'Agostino. Carcetti bets his friends that he can convince her to let him buy her a drink. And so he does, while he flatters her with pleas to manage his campaign. D'Agostino is skeptical, telling Carcetti that a white man could never get elected Mayor of Baltimore. Finally, one of Carcetti's buddies recognizes D'Agostino and sees that they've been gamed. He tells the others: "She's down in D.C. now with the National Party. A campaign fixer."
Frustrated over the slow progress his clean-streets program is making, Colvin orders his troops to round up the dealers and bring them to a city high school so the police can again pound home the message. Bodie, Poot and other Barksdale soldiers are there, as well as Fruit, Jamal and Boo from Marlo's crew.
It's a rowdy bunch, and Colvin finds it impossible to get their attention, much less respect, until the arrival of the Vice Principal, a tough, tiny black woman who knows the boys and provokes respect, if not fear, among them. She brings quiet to the room for the moment, but the chaos returns the second she leaves.
Saying he's sorry, Stringer Bell shows up at Donette's house, whose calls he's been ignoring for weeks. "Sorry don't warm my bed at night," she tells him. She also lets him know McNulty has been poking around looking for information on who might have killed D'Angelo. Bell reassures her that no one would kill D'Angelo, since that would invite the wrath of D'Angelo's uncle Avon. Kissing her, he promises that he's going to be a bigger presence in her life from now on.
McNulty and Bunk knock back a few, and later, dead drunk, McNulty shows up at Pearlman's house, hoping for a roll in the hay. He leaves when she won't answer the door, but is not so drunk that he doesn't recognize Daniels' car parked outside her apartment.
Across town, Cutty attends a house party with the Barksdale gang, where drugs, music, and booze - not to mention a variety of available women - are in plentiful supply. Bodie has two young women in particular in mind for Cutty, and, taking it all in, Cutty realizes that he's back in the game for real.
05 - Straight and True
"I had such fuckin' hopes for us." - McNulty
Johnny pressures Bubbles to stop snitching for the Detail. "We getting by with the capers, ain't we?" he asks. "Oh yeah," responds Bubbles. "We getting by. Out here every damn day, rippin' and runnin' and ain't got shit to show for it."
As if on cue, Johnny spots a ladder with a man atop - working on a house - and persuades Bubbles, who is fed up with it all, once more to enact their sure-fire scam - a two-act drama in which Bubbles shakes the ladder, threatening to topple it, until Johnny and races in to the "rescue," shooing Bubbles away. The victim - grateful, naturally - coughs up a tenner for Johnny, but when he sets out to meet up with Bubbles afterward, his friend is nowhere to be found.
Cutty, hungover from serious partying the night before, is rousted from bed by his grandmother, Mee-maw, who tells him he smells like Newports. He lies to her and says he's working nights now, in a bar. She also tells him that Grace, his ex-girlfriend, called once again, to remind of his appointment at the church. "She say there's a job in it, if you still lookin'," says Mee-maw.
As Stringer Bell departs Baltimore Community College and heads for his car, McNulty is there to observe him. Later, sitting in front of Bell's copy shop, McNulty is bored to death, so bored that he decides to pays Bell a visit and speak to him directly.
"Ain't seen you round the way," he tells Bell, who responds that he's not "around the way no more," that he's doing real estate instead, and in fact, if McNulty is interested in a condo downtown, Bell would be only too glad to help him out.
Later, at the Detail Office, McNulty tells Freamon and Prez of his face-to-face with Bell. Freamon ventures that Bell is essentially untouchable now that he's gone legit: "He won't go near the street. He is insulated from the day-to-day operations on the corners. The money that comes back is laundered through enough straight business investments that there's no way to trace it back. A player gets to that point, there's no way for working police to tie a can to his tail." Resigned, McNulty faces the futility of his obsession with Barksdale and Bell and turns his attention to nailing Kintel Williamson.
At Omar's house, the air is tense as Kimmy and Omar clean their hardware in preparation for another strike. Dante and Kimmy argue over Dante's role in their next heist, and Omar is forced to intercede before a sullen peace takes hold. "This time we do it right," Omar says heading out the door.
At the Western District stationhouse, Carver and Mello attempt to persuade Colvin that his plan isn't working: "Fuckin' hoodleheads won't listen to reason," says Carver. "Y'all some lying sacks of shit," responds Colvin, calling their bluff. Rather than abandon his scheme, Colvin visits Daniels and retrieves the names of mid-level drug dealers, reasoning that these are the people with the power to move their street dealers into Colvin's free zone. Soon, his cops are rounding up the names on Daniels' list.
Some of them, anyhow. As Carver and Herc attempt to bring Marlo to meet Colvin, his soldiers tense, ready to do battle. Carver pulls rank on Herc, who's ready to go to the mat with Marlo, and tells him to back off. The cops leave without Marlo.
Elsewhere, however, the cops have better luck, and a crowd of mid-level dealers - stunned and suspicious - suddenly find themselves in a downtrodden, alien neighborhood - Colvin's 'free zone' - facing a big problem. No customers.
An unhappy Bodie asks what happens if the dealers refuse to play ball, and Colvin is very explicit: "I swear to God, I have over 200 sworn personnel and I will free them all up to brutalize every one of you they can. If you're on a corner in my district, it will not be just a humble or a loitering charge. It will be some Biblical shit that happens to you on the way into that jail wagon. You understand? We will not be playing by any rules that you recognise."
As Colvin talks, an elderly lady emerges from one of the decrepit houses, and the Major is dismayed. "We musta missed her," says Mello. "One more thing to do, then," replies his boss.
Carcetti is outraged when he reads in the paper that a state's witness in a major drug case has been murdered. "You let a witness get killed in a high-profile case like this, it says the city's broke and can't be fixed," he tells his pal Councilman Gray.
When Gray chides him for having found an issue he can use to go after the Mayor, Carcetti protests. Rising above politics, he tells Gray that it's a serious problem and he's going to fix it. "You want your cape and the little red underpants?" chides Gray. "Or do you stash that shit in the phone booth? I always wondered about that." Visiting Mayor Royce, Carcetti threatens to go to the press if the cops don't make the murder a priority. The Mayor, furious but spooked, agrees to "light a fire."
Convinced that a Barksdale street dealer who's short-changing the syndicate is, in fact, spending his money on his girlfriend, Cutty stakes her out with two other Barksdale soldiers. He puts them in charge as he leaves to keep his church appointment that Grace arranged to discuss a job. When he gets there, Cutty discovers that not only is Grace not coming to the appointment - his only real interest - but that the church has no job for him. What is offered is a chance to study for a GED school leaver's certificate, but Cutty has already been drawn back to the criminal world. He says "no thanks" and leaves, retrieving his gun from a trash pile outside the church.
Cutty finds Barksdale's men snorting coke, but declines when he's offered a hit. He must take a urine test in the morning, he says. "You worried about that? Shit, nigger, go 'head," says one of the soldiers. "We got that covered." Later, they buy clean urine from a dealer - he says it comes from a daycare center - and Cutty takes his test.
Eventually Cutty and the soldiers find the girl - Uniqua. She resists their efforts to converse, and Cutty slaps her hard across the face. "We gonna talk," he tells her. And they do. The result is a beating of her boyfriend so violent that even Cutty is repulsed. Cutty cautions: "You know the man works for us. Keep goin' at him like that, there won't be enough left to make right what he owes," but he is ignored. The soldiers persist in their punishment.
Bunk, splitting his time between recovering Dozerman's gun and trying to figure out who was present for the shootout that killed Tosha, determines through an eyewitness that Omar was indeed involved. Before he can take the witness downtown and prep him for grand jury testimony, Sgt. Landsman arrives in a squad car and orders Bunk back to the Dozerman case.
In a hotel conference room, Stringer Bell again chairs a meeting, this time with the city's major drug dealers. Most of them anyway, since Marlo is notably absent. Bell's mission is to convince them to set aside differences and agree to purchase their drugs collectively. "All in favor of goin' in together so as to pull the best discount on a New York package, raise up," he says, and the show of hands indicate he carries the day. "For a cold-ass crew of gangsters," Proposition Joe observes, "y'all carried it like Republicans an' shit."
Bell seeks out Marlo to try and persuade him to join the newly formed cartel. Greggs, who has learned from Bubbles where Marlo parks his SUV, follows Marlo to the meeting and is stunned to see Bell arrive too. Maybe Freamon isn't right after all. Summoning McNulty, the two are gleeful at the discovery of Bell's continued involvement with the drug trade.
With the dealers cooperating at last, Colvin's cops round up the city's junkies, turning them loose from the police van into the free zone - the area the dealers are now calling Hamsterdam. In short order, an open-air drug bazaar is in full swing. Stunned and paranoid, the junkies buy their bags in broad daylight, as amazed as the dealers by the cops who look on but do not interfere.
Across town, McNulty visits a Catholic grade school for a meet-the-faculty chat. His ex-wife wants to send their kids there, but McNulty is bored by curriculum conversations and wanders off, meeting a beautiful brunette who turns out to be Carcetti's friend, Theresa D'Agostino. Elena fumes as McNulty flirts, and he heads back to D'Agostino's place to take her to bed.
Avon Barksdale, emerging from prison, is met with warmth and affection by Stringer Bell and Shamrock, who brings Barksdale a high-fashion sweat suit.
Later, at a downtown hotel, Bells throws a lavish welcome-home party for Barksdale, inviting not only the soldiers but his new set of friends as well - the lawyers, developers and politicians he hopes will make him rich. Barksdale's attention is drawn to the ladies on hand, but each time he makes a move, Bell grabs him for introductions to yet another developer. Finally Bell takes Barksdale away from the party to surprise Avon with a fancy waterfront condominium he's bought and decorated, complete with a Navigator in the basement garage. "We makin' so much straight money," Bell tells him, "we can carry shit like this out in the open now, in our own names."
Barksdale is impressed, and grateful, but still has only one thing on his mind. Moments after Bell leaves, in fact, there's a knock on the door and two lovely ladies from the party arrive to properly welcome Avon home.
06 - Homecoming
"Just a gangster, I suppose."
- Avon Barksdale
Major Colvin along with Mello, Carver and the other cops observe the so-called free zone they've created on Vincent Street in West Baltimore. They're encouraged but not satisfied with what they see: a modestly busy open-air drug market in a deserted neighborhood, a neighborhood the dealers refer to as Hamsterdam. When Carver informs Colvin that some dealers are resistant to the free zones, Colvin urges his cops to "bang them senseless. Anything you need to do, you do. Up to a body that can't walk itself out of an emergency room, I will back you and your men."
So instructed, the cops fan out across the West Side and, amidst howls of protest from the dealers, begin knocking heads, throwing their sneakers in the sewers, towing their cars, driving them outside of town and dumping them.
Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell discover that real estate development has its own pitfalls. The price of steel has doubled, and changes they've requested trigger the need for new permits, which means higher costs. Later they learn that it's going to be weeks - not days - before the new permits are issued. Unless of course Bell is prepared to bribe the contractor's "consultant," a politically connected employee who fixes things. "He goes downtown and does for us what we can't do for ourselves," the contractor explains. "Democracy in action, Mr. Bell." Bell takes the bait and visits the consultant, who turns out to be Senator Clay Davis. The cost to speed up the permits: $25,000. "Twenty gets you the permits," explains Davis. "Five is to me for bribin' these downtown motherfuckers. I mean, I'm the one got to risk walkin' up to these thieving' bitches with cash in hand, right?"
McNulty and Greggs appeal once more to Daniels to let them dog Bell and Barksdale, arguing that if they don't get them now, the pair will soon be so insulated from the drug trade that they'll be untouchable behind the façade of their legitimate businesses. "It's now or never, Lieutenant," says Greggs. Daniels, however is unmoved. "Stringer Bell is quiet," he says. "And if he's quiet, I don't give a fuck if we come back a year from now and find out he's on the Greater Baltimore Committee. This unit is about the bodies."
Barksdale, unaware that Bell has made a peace offering to Marlo and invited him into his New Day Co-op, is unhappy over Marlo's prime drug-dealing real estate. Bell hesitates to tell Barksdale of his peace overtures.
Bunk Moreland, trying to flush Omar out, calls on Tosha's family to inform them she was not an innocent bystander when she was killed. In fact, he says, she may have been killed by Omar's gang, albeit accidentally. Bunk wants to talk with Omar and tells the family: "Y'all need to get word to the right people." His plan works: Omar learns of Bunk's visit through Kimmy. Omar's response: "You tell 'em she caught one from the boys she tried to take off. Tell 'em there ain't no need to involve no police in any of it."
McNulty and Greggs try to persuade a State's Attorney to change D'Angelo's cause of death from suicide to homicide. She's having none of it, especially when she learns the cops don't even have a suspect. "Look," she says, "I don't know how you city guys do it. But down here in Annapolis, we try to duck a punch or two. Not lean into every last one."
Cedric Daniels attends a cocktail party for his estranged wife, Marla, decked out in his dress blues and putting on a convincing show of marital solidarity. After the party, a grateful Marla seems to suggest that she and Daniels have another go at their relationship. But Cedric, now involved with Rhonda Pearlman, is noncommittal.
Barksdale and Bell have a serious conversation about the future of their partnership. Barksdale, upset that Marlo has gone unchallenged on his prime street corners, is not consoled by Bell's argument that they're making so much money they don't need any more turf wars. "How many corners do we need?" he asks. "More than a nigger can spend," replies Barksdale. "And we ain't gonna be around to spend what we don't got," points out Bell. He tells Barksdale that they can take the cash they have, invest in more real estate "and we in a money game where nary a motherfucker goes to jail. We could be past the run-and-gun, Avon. We could finance the packages and never touch nothing but cash. No corners, no territory, nothing but making like a got-damn bank. We let the younguns worry about how to wholesale, where to retail. I mean, who give a fuck who standing on what corner, when we pulling our cut off the top and putting that money to good use?" "We businessmen, huh?" Barksdale says. Bell asks Barksdale to give him time to reason with Marlo. "I think I can talk some sense in his head." But Barksdale, still not getting it, is unmoved: "Ain't no shirt-wearin' suit like you. Just a gangster, I suppose. And I want my corners."
In Hamsterdam, meanwhile, Major Colvin pays a call on Mrs. Hazel, an elderly black woman who still lives in the free zone, and who has until now been overlooked by the cops. His attempts to convince her to move - he even shows her a photo of a house she can have - are met with skepticism. "Officer, this is the only home I know. All I have. You say you got a program to move me somewhere's else. But you ain't got no program for what's outside my door?" she asks.
Alerted by Bodie, Bell pays a visit to Hamsterdam and is amazed to find the scene just as Bodie described. Bell is impressed, but skeptical, too. "Tell you what. Put some of our people down here. Not too many. Just some of the younguns. Keep the package real small, in case this is a trap."
An impatient Barksdale orders his soldiers to "put a hurt to this Marlo. I want my corners." Cutty lays out the plan to take back corners from Marlo's crew, but trouble erupts when a Barksdale soldier Chipper ignores Cutty's orders. Rushing into the action, Chipper and another solider are shot and killed. Cutty corners Fruit with his gun, but as he stares Fruit in the face, Cutty finds he can't pull the trigger - and Fruit escapes.
On a handball court, the two Councilmen Carcetti and Gray go at it, pausing between games to gossip. Carcetti is surprised to learn that State Delegate Odell Watkins has been speaking ill of the Mayor in public. Unaware that Carcetti is entertaining the idea of replacing the Mayor, Gray harbors his own fantasies about giving it a run.
Bubbles tips off Greggs that Marlo and Barksdale are involved in a war, but Greggs, under orders to stop pursuing Barksdale, is uninterested. At least until she learns that Marlo's gang has just killed two Barksdale players. In the war that is sure to follow, Bubbles says, "Westside gonna be all Baghdad an' shit." Armed with this new evidence, Greggs and McNulty plead with Daniels yet again to let them pursue their old foes, especially now that Barksdale and Bell are dropping bodies. Daniels is infuriated by their continued refusal to take no for an answer, and suggesting they're being insubordinate, throws them out of his office. Later they conspire to get him to change his mind. "Maybe if the word came down from on high," suggests Greggs. "I mean, if your old friend Bunny Colvin's up to his ass in bodies, I'd bet he'd take all the help he can get. Not that you'd ever go behind anyone's back or anything like that, right?" But, in a familiar fashion, that's just what McNulty does, telling Colvin what's going on and asking him to "keep my name out of it."
When Bell and Barksdale learn that the assault on Marlo went bad, they again take opposite sides. Bell wants to lay back, wait till the streets cool down and the cops get back to business as usual. Barksdale wants action: "Ain't got no more motherfuckin' time now. When word of this get out that the boy, Marlo, punked me, what am I gonna look like?" Bell cautions that Barksdale needs to cool it, warning that if his name comes up around such a crime, he'll go back to jail in a minute. Barksdale tells Cutty and Slim Charles to take care of Marlo themselves.
Donette tells Brianna that McNulty paid her a visit and suggested that perhaps D'Angelo was murdered. Brianna, who had never considered that possibility, is all ears.
Omar arranges a sitdown with Bunk, but any hopes the detective harbors that Omar wants to cooperate are quickly dashed. "Ain't nobody gonna talk to you," Omar declares. "I just come down here to make that clear." When Bunk mentions that there's an eyewitness, Omar says he has that covered as well. "He had a change of heart to that story," Omar says of the witness. Bunk is enraged, and reminding Omar that they grew up together, tells him they once had neighbors who cared: "Rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Wasn't nobody, no victim, who didn't matter. Now all we got is bodies, and predatory motherfuckers like you."
Carcetti again leans on Therese D'Agostino, imploring her to handle his mayoral campaign." Crime is outta fucking control," he argues. She wants to know how he's going to fix it. "The great white father rides to the rescue against a black incumbent mayor, in a city that's sixty-five percent black?" she asks. Carcetti has a ready response: "Black, white, green - people are pissed off."
Mayor Royce is angry as the bodies pile up, and he and his Chief of Staff sweat Burrell: "You're at 280 and you promised me 275 or under," says Royce. "Three hundred before the new year and I'm not sure I can justify a full term for you."
Cutty, feeling badly that he allowed Fruit to escape, confesses the truth to Barksdale: that he couldn't pull the trigger. Why not, Barksdale demands. "Whatever it is in you that lets you flow like you flow, it ain't in me no more. Barksdale points out there are other things Cutty can do for him, but Cutty cuts him off: "I guess I ain't made myself clear. The game ain't in me no more. None of it."
Daniels is summoned to Burrell's office, and when he arrives, he finds Colvin, Burrell and Rawls waiting to read him the riot act. McNulty's backdoor approach has had its desired effect.
07 - Back Burners
"Conscience do cost."
Avon Barksdale, out of prison and on the prowl, rides the West Side with Slim Charles, who shows him how the cops are out in force on the drug corners. "Likely 'cause we been dropping bodies," explains Charles. He also tells Avon that Marlo - following Barksdale's attempted hit on it - has closed up shop and is working as a drug wholesaler instead a retailer. Barksdale is amazed at Marlo's hasty retreat: "An' I was just beginning to respect the motherfucker for showin' heart." Herc, on duty in the free zone, is amazed when he spots Avon Barksdale, riding by in an SUV.
Cutty, foreswearing the gangster life, has gone back to work with the yard crew and his eagerness to do a good job impresses his supervisor. "You walked through them old doors, didn't you," he asks Cutty. "Tried to," Cutty admits, and then confides in him that things haven't been going so well.
At the Detail Office, Lt. Daniels summons his crew, and informs them they're no longer pursuing Kintel Williamson. McNulty and Greggs share a guilty look when Daniels announces that their new targets are Stringer Bell and Marlo Stanfield. Their backdoor plot through Bunny Colvin has worked, but Daniels then calls McNulty into his office and asks him if he went to Colvin behind Daniels' back. When McNulty admits he did, Daniels is furious: "When the cuffs go on Stringer," he says, "you need to find a new home. You're done in this unit."
Omar, through his advisor Butchie, arranges to purchase Dozerman's missing service revolver - the same gun Bunk has been pursuing. The gun appears after Omar puts the word out on the street, but Omar is reluctant to pay the gangster who supplied it until Omar is sure it's authentic. "Tell him I'll pay when it proves itself," Omar says to Butchie. "Told him that already," responds Butchie. "He say you can make it $1,500 for his trouble." Then Butchie adds: "Conscience do cost." Through Butchie, the gun is returned to Bunk.
Barksdale soldier Bernard delivers Shamrock a fresh load of burners - mobile phones that the Barksdale gang uses and discards after their minutes are used up - so the gang is always a step ahead of the wire. Shamrock tells him they'll need 60 more in a few days. As Bernard heads out to purchase them the next day, a few at a time at a variety of convenience stores so as not to arouse suspicion, his smart-mouthed girlfriend Squeak chides him for not making quick work of the job by purchasing all the phones from a few stores. She wants to go to the movies instead.
Colvin and Mello go over the latest crime statistics for Colvin's district and learn that shootings and aggravated assaults are down five percent in almost every neighborhood except the free zone. Mello wants to know if Colvin's going to let his bosses know that his experiment is working. "Too soon to take any credit," says Colvin. "Might just be a, what do you call it, statistical aberration."
Councilman Carcetti tracks down Police Commissioner Burrell outside City Hall and then learns that Mayor Royce never even called Burrell, as he'd promised, to deal with the matter of beefing up the city's witness protection program.
An angry Carcetti is determined to exploit the recently murdered drug witness who was in police custody by using it against Royce. "You're not gonna fuck me on this?" Burrell demands to know. "As it is, I've got the Mayor's teeth in my ass on this," he says. Carcetti promises that he won't, but later meets with Theresa D'Agostino at his house to plot strategy. She advises him not to confront the Mayor now by going to the press. "No one's gonna remember your dead witness a year from now," she tells him. "Wait for another witness to be killed, closer to the election," she says.
Freamon explains to McNulty and Greggs what he's gleaned from the mobile phone of Marlo's soldier Fruit, which Bubbles retrieved and gave to Greggs. The data, which shows calls made to a network of now-defunct cell phone numbers, isn't worth much by itself. "It's all historical," says Freamon. "We can find the network no problem, but when we do it's a week old and they've dumped their phones. How we get a wire up - that part I haven't figured out yet." He adds. "Get us one good phone and we can do the whole network."
Donette, over dinner at her apartment, enrages Stringer Bell when she tells him that she shared with Brianna - D'Angelo's mother - that the police are no longer convinced that D'Angelo's death while in prison was a suicide. "It's her son," Donette says defensively. "Ain't she got a right to know?"
Bubbles, selling tunic-length white T-shirts out of a grocery cart, visits Hamsterdam at night. What he sees is a nightmare orgy of drug users shooting up, smoking crack; prostitutes at work; fighting and general chaos, complete with lots of young boys standing around idly, no longer needed by the drug lords as runners and lookouts. Amidst the inferno, Bubbles spots Johnny in a crack house, badly strung out and looking seriously ill.
There's trouble at Greggs' house when she returns home after a late night at a bar. Cheryl is furious and lays in to Greggs. Greggs says she's disappointed at the way their life has changed. "I miss us," Greggs says. "You wanted the baby," she tells Cheryl, "and I didn't want to disappoint you on it. I didn't wanna lose you." Cheryl's response: "I don't think I could be more disappointed than I am right now." Angry and hurt, she asks Greggs to leave.
In Hamsterdam, Carver angrily confronts a dealer who's cut loose the kids who worked for him as runners and lookouts on the city's street corners. "So here you are making money hand over fist and you're too damn greedy to take care of your work force." Carver tells the dealer that in the future, he and the other dealers must each cough up a hundred dollars a week as a kind of tax, simply for the right to do business in Hamsterdam.
When the dealer comes back later and gives Carver the money he's requested, Carver hands it back to him and tells him to pay the young boys with it, whether they do work or not. "Shit is like unemployment insurance," Carver explains. "Every employer got to pay in. And if I find anyone holding out, he's out of here, and back on the street getting' his head busted." Herc, observing the scene, asks Carver: "What are you, a fucking communist?"
Having learned that Mayor Royce lied to him about shoring up the city's witness protection system, Carcetti goes back to the Mayor's office to pressure him into action.
"Mr. Mayor, we're probably only talking a few hundred thousand dollars that's not already spoken for," Carcetti prods. The Mayor, irate, responds: "Where would you have me begin, Councilman? Should I divert the money budgeted for snow removal in the first district this winter? How 'bout I reduce trash pickup citywide to once a week and put up witnesses at the Hyatt Inner Harbor?" The Mayor's point: With the city in sorry financial shape, he can't do any better. Carcetti takes this in without a response, but considers his own course of action.
Staking out a drug corner, Greggs, Sydnor and McNulty observe Bodie and his crew suddenly jump in their SUV and drive away. Suspecting they have drugs with them, the detectives radio ahead and have the car stopped. Bodie and his company are outraged, especially since they are holding a sizeable quantity of drugs. They maintain they were heading for Hamsterdam to sell the drugs that have been seized, and are thus untouchable. "Yo, Officer, we got immunity from y'all. We goin' to the free zone." McNulty and his fellow detectives have no idea what the dealers are talking about and the scene grows increasingly tense until Major Colvin shows up.
When Colvin arrives shortly thereafter, he pleads with McNulty and his fellow cops to let the matter slide, and not to take news of the free zone downtown. "I know it hurts your heads to think about it, but before you decide to lose your minds over this, you might take a moment and ride past some of my drug corners," Colvin says. "Empty. All of them. And district-wide, my crime is down five percent." Greggs is incredulous: "You legalized drugs and you didn't tell the bosses." Colvin explains that he's "just trying to save what's left of my district if I can. And the longer I have before I have to brief the bosses about this..."
McNulty explains that they got what they wanted from the car bust anyway, which was a live mobile phone with minutes left on it, and which Freamon can now use to trace the Barksdale network. Besides, McNulty owes Colvin a big favor for leaning on Rawls to redirect the Daniels detail once more towards McNulty's favorite target: Stringer Bell. McNulty assures Colvin that his secret is safe, and then delivers Bodie's phone to Freamon, who is pleased in the extreme.
Bell meets with his attorney, Maurice Levy, angry that Levy didn't stop Brianna from going to the police to see if she can learn whether her boy D'Angelo was in fact murdered.
"It was her son," says Levy. "How was I going to stop her? There's no harm done if she keeps her mouth shut and just listens." Levy also suggests that Avon should know what's going on. Bell, brooding darkly, says he'll handle that matter.
McNulty tracks Theresa D'Agostino to a DNC fundraiser in Washington, and talks his way into the event, intent on seeing her again. Finding her deep in conversation, he starts to leave when she catches up to him, presses her room key into his hand and tells him to wait for her, that she'll be free by 11 p.m.
Cutty visits Grace's friend the deacon at church, and explains that he's now serious about changing his life: "I had this feelin' for a long time now like I'm outside of myself, watching me do things I don't wanna do, you know?"
At a ceremony at police headquarters, Burrell and Mayor Royce grandstand for the press over the return of Dozerman's service revolver. "Officer Dozerman," the Mayor says, "our citizens want you to have this back and to thank you for your service in defense of our city." Carcetti, watching the press conference on TV, is deflated by the good publicity for the Mayor.
The throwaway mobile phone confiscated from Bodie is a potential breakthrough in the Detail's case against Bell and Barksdale. "Check it out," says Freamon, who has quickly managed to track all the calls placed to and from the phone. "This is the pattern of a closed communication network. Something that you would expect from a drug organization. This particular one so far involves fifteen distinct burners."
The bad news is, even if they get a wiretap approved, it'll take so long that the other throwaway phones the dealers are using will have been discarded by the time the approval comes through. But Freamon says it would be helpful to corroborate his theory if the Detail could collect more throwaways from Barksdale corners.
Marlo, still smarting from Barksdale's attack on him and his gang, responds by ordering one of his female soldiers, Snoop, to take revenge. In short order, she shoots at Barksdale's gang members Poot and Rico. Rico is killed but Poot escapes, shaken but unharmed.
Herc stuns McNulty by telling him that Avon Barksdale is on the loose again, that Herc saw him riding in an SUV. Greggs doesn't believe it either: "Jesus, Herc. He's at Jessup, down for four or five at least. What, we all look alike to you?"
At the Detail Office later, McNulty is incredulous when he checks Barksdale's status at the prison and learns that in fact, Avon has been released. Daniels, Freamon, Prez, Sydnor, and Greggs gather around McNulty's computer, disbelieving and disheartened. Avon Barksdale has beaten the system.
08 - Moral Midgetry
"Pretty don't even come close to the problem."
- The Deacon
The open-air drug market at Hamsterdam appears to be flourishing. Prostitution thrives, dealers sell, junkies overdose and co-eds make buys as drug paraphernalia sellers ply their trade and common criminals are drawn to the action. One gang lures dealers into an abandoned rowhouse with the promise of gold jewelry at bargain-basement prices, only to rob them when they step inside to survey the wares.
Carver spots one of the dealers, bound and gagged, crawling on his belly down the stairs from the rowhouse, but by then, the thieves have fled and the dealers are outraged. "Can't you ever get a motherfucking police 'round here when you need one?" shouts one. Believing the cops have reneged on their word to keep the place safe, they are furious. "You say it's gonna be like the Valley of Eden up in here," says one.
Major Bunny Colvin proudly shows off a cleaned-up street corner in his district to the Deacon - the same church man who offered help to Cutty Wise - who wants to know how Colvin has managed this miracle. So Colvin takes him to the free zone. There, he learns of the robbery and acknowledges that the dealers have a point about police protection.
"We tell 'em they have to come down here without the guns, then we fall down on providing protection," he says to Carver. When Carver points out that an even bigger issue is the 50 - 60 kids who are hanging out in Hamsterdam, no longer employed by the dealers, Colvin suggests Carver hire them as perimeter patrols, to keep an eye out for predators. Taking it all in, the Deacon is as appalled as he is mystified: "What in God's name did you do here?"
At the Detail Office, Prez's latest investigation is an impressive bit of handiwork. He has tracked the disposable mobile phone - the burner - the police took from Bodie and traced every step of its existence, from manufacturer through middlemen to the Mondo Mart in Falls Church, Va., where it was sold to a Barksdale soldier.
Prez has also traced the numbers on the phone's speed dial to Bodie's grandmother and to six other disposable phones. He has discovered the location - all of them along Interstate 95 - where each of the other Barksdale phones was purchased. Freamon, marveling at the care with which Barksdale's gang is operating, notes: "They're driving 200 miles every couple weeks out of sheer caution. They're dumping phones every two weeks or so and still they're worried about catching a wiretap."
Avon Barksdale visits the West Baltimore funeral home where Rico, the soldier killed by Marlo, lies in a casket. "This motherfucker Marlo? Time to go deep on this nigger," Barksdale says.
As McNulty and Greggs hit I-95 in search of a surveillance tape at one of the convenience stores where the burners were purchased, McNulty gets a call from Brianna Barksdale who wants to talk with him about her son.
Stringer Bell is angry with State Sen. Clay Davis because the construction documents Bell bribed Davis to provide have not yet come through. "Feels like ain't shit changed except for a growing lightness in my wallet," says Bell, but Davis reassures him that it will all happen in a few days. And, Davis adds, he's also hooked Bell up to be the minority light bulb contractor to the Baltimore Board of Education, which will involve no work and bring Bell $5,000 a month.
Davis reassures Bell that he'll help induct him into the netherworld of governmental procurement, but that Bell must be patient. When Bell protests that he's ready now, Davis tells him he's still "showing a bit of the street mentality-buggin' about every dime you spend. Three years," counsels Davis. "Crawl, walk, then run."
The Deacon rips Colvin for creating Hamsterdam, calling it "a great village of pain," and insisting that Colvin also provide needle exchange, condom distribution and drug-treatment intake for the denizens of the free zone.
Cutty, revisting the Deacon in a different frame of mind, reaffirms his commitment to changing. "I just need to be in control of my life," Cutty says. The Deacon asks: "What would you say if I told you there's a certain liberation, not in command or self control, but in surrender?"
With Theresa D'Agostino looking on, Carcetti chairs a meeting of his Public Safety Subcommittee and questions Rawls and Burrell about why reduced crime in the Western District alone - Colvin's territory - accounts for half of the city's crime drop.
Burrell explains it as a 'statistical aberration' and says he'll scrutinize it next month if it's repeated. Then Carcetti rips the cops once again for their failure to provide adequate witness protection. As he reaches a peak of self-righteous posturing, he notices D'Agostino departing the hearing room. Later, he's crushed when she explains to him that politics is about more than winning arguments, that he needs to temper his ambition and sharp tongue and work on being more likeable.
Herc, Carver, Colicchio and other cops gather outside after work to share a beer and debate the merits both of Hamsterdam and of its creator - their boss - Bunny Colvin. "It's moral midgetry," says an outraged Colicchio. "Let's turn the fuckin' world upside down. Let's treat these braindead corner yo's like princelings."
Carver defends his boss: "You see how clean the corners are? In every sector, the traffic is half what it was." Colicchio is unmoved: "He's gotta know what a heartbreaker it is to suit up every morning for this shit." Carver continues in Colvin's defense, "The man's trying something. It might be hard to stomach, but it's working. After 30 years, don't you think he's earned the right to some elbow room on this?"
Greggs and McNulty spend the night in a cheap motel room awaiting access to a convenience-store surveillance tape that they hope will enable them to track the Barksdale soldier who purchases the burners. McNulty learns that Greggs has moved back in with her lover, but can't resist making a pass anyway. "Hey, you know me," he says by way of explanation when he's rebuffed.
Later, they meet FBI Special Agent Terrance Fitzhugh at the Detail Office and, thanks to a computer program he's brought along, bingo: they zoom in on the Barksdale soldier who buys the burners and manage to extract a license number.
At a meeting of police commanders at headquarters, Bunny Colvin struggles to justify the Western District's crime drop while holding on to his secret: "Through the effective use of resources, an increased police presence and an intensive reach out into the community we've been able to have a significant impact on those areas to the effect of a 12 percent decrease overall."
Rawls is skeptical: "Seriously Bunny. I already got the City Council asking questions about the 8 percent. We want to please the mayor, not go to jail behind this shit." Colvin's reply: "Sometimes, the gods listen, sir."
D'Angelo Barksdale's mother Brianna presses McNulty for details of her son's death. "D'Angelo hung himself," she declares. "Not with the belt they found around his neck," McNulty tells her. "Not with that distance between the doorknob and the floor." "No," replies Brianna, disbelieving. "Nobody would have dared. My brother, his uncle... This is just you talking, right?"
"Just me," McNulty responds. "No one else cares. Look, I'm sorry I brought you into the whole mess up to begin with because frankly nobody's gonna do shit about it anyhow. Whoever killed him wanted it to come off as a suicide, and the cops are only too happy to have one less murder to investigate. On top of that, the Anne Arundel State's Attorney doesn't give a fuck, I'm not supposed to give a fuck..."
When Brianna asks why McNulty went to Donette and not to her with his suspicions, he plays the guilt card hard and fast: "Honestly? I was looking for someone who cared about the kid. I mean, like I said, you told him to take the years." Brianna, overcome with guilt, begins to weep.
Over a game of pool, the Deacon describes Hamsterdam as "a five-acre Petri dish" and again presses Colvin to recognize the unique opportunity he has and begin implementing public health and social programs. "All kinds of liberal-assed projects never got off the page they was written on," replies a skeptical Colvin. When Colvin resists further, Deacon plays his trump card, threatening to blow the whistle on Hamsterdam: "Move it or lose it, boss."
Carcetti consults a media trainer and watches a video of his performance at the last Council Subcommittee meeting. "Use open, warm phrases. Nothing sharp, nothing that bites," advises the consultant. "Where's the fun in that?" Carcetti wants to know.
Brianna calls on her brother Avon but Bell runs interference, telling her Avon is tied up. When she brings up McNulty and the message he is spreading, Bell warns her that McNulty is "just trying to drive a wedge up in here."
Barksdale activates a plot to track down Omar's family with the help of a social worker whom he figures must have provided welfare to Omar's family at some point. Greggs and McNulty visit the car rental office where they've traced the Barksdale soldier who buys the burners. Clayton Davis introduces Stringer Bell to the man who can make him even richer, a white executive who gives Bell a piece of the Board of Education light bulb action.
Barksdale sends a girl, Devonne, to bait Marlo. Marlo picks her up in a club, and after enjoying her company, agrees to meet her later at a restaurant, the Lake Trout. When the Barksdale gang learns of the planned rendezvous, they stake out the Lake Trout prior to the meeting, but are observed by Marlo's scouts, who shoot into the Barksdale car, wounding Avon.
Later, as he's sewn up by a veterinarian with Bell looking on, Avon is angry over Bell's apparent obsession with money. "You know the difference between me and you?" Barksdale asks bitterly. "I'm bleedin' red and you bleedin' green. I look at you these days, String, you know what I see? I see a man without a country. Not hard enough for this right here and maybe, just maybe, not smart enough for them out there..."
Thus provoked, Bell reveals to Avon that it was he who had Avon's nephew D'Angelo killed. Avon is enraged by this news, and throws himself on Bell, wounded shoulder and all. After a brief struggle, Bell subdues Avon and tells him: "I took that shit off you and put it on me, because that motherfucker was out of pocket, with 20 years above his fucking head. He flips, they have you, me, Brianna. No fucking way." Knowing the truth of Bell's statement, Avon accepts in reluctantly. "Let me up," he says resignedly to Bell. "String, let me up."
09 - Slapstick
"...while you're waiting for moments that never come."
McNulty is woken from a dead sleep sometime before dawn by Theresa D'Agostino, who has checked into a Baltimore hotel and wants the detective's company. He awakens Sean, his oldest boy, and tells him his mobile number is on the table, and that he'll be back later, and heads into the night for a tryst with his lover. Returning home, he tries to interest himself in the talking heads on TV, ruminating about politics, but it's just too boring, and watches an old movie instead.
The Deacon visits "Cutty" Wise, now known as Dennis since he's renounced the street life. Wise is clearing out the space where he hopes to launch a gym to work with kids. Deacon points out that once it's clean, "all you gonna need is the permits." Wise doesn't have a clue what he means.
Two Barksdale soldiers, Gerard and Sapper, observe Omar get out of a cab outside his grandma's house and disappear inside. Frantically, they phone their lieutenant, Slim Charles, to see if they should defy the ghetto's traditional Sunday morning truce and make a hit on Omar. With Slim Charles unavailable, they call Shamrock. He's with Stringer Bell, in the midst of a tense meeting with syndicate members, who are unhappy about Barksdale's ongoing war with the Marlo.
When Bell gives them the go-ahead, they fire at Omar and his grandma as they emerge from her house on their way to church. Spotting them coming, however, Omar shoves his grandma in a cab and they speed off as the window glass shatters.
At the syndicate meeting, the members press Bell over Avon's refusal to give up his old territorial ways and live with the new reality: cooperation. "Your man needs to reconcile himself to this new way of thinking," Proposition Joe says to Bell.
Bunny Colvin brags to the Deacon that the West Side of Baltimore has experienced a 14 percent decrease in felonies since Hamsterdam was born. "But God knows," the Deacon observes, "what happens when you let go of your secret." Colvin's response: "Whatever happens, happens. They can keep my little experiment going, or they can go back to business as usual. That's on them. Me? I'm gone, either way."
Omar is enraged at the Sunday morning attempt on his life, even more so by the fact that he was with his grandma, who was cut by flying glass. "Barksdale gotta be got," Omar says. "Stringer, too. This thing gotta end." Kimmy tells him to count her out if that's what he intends to do, but Dante says he's with Omar all the way. Omar refuses his offer, telling them both, "This one about me. Ain't about no one else."
At the Detail Office, Daniels tells his troops they're nearly ready to run some new wires on the throwaway phones the Barksdale gang is using. But when State's Attorney Pearlman calls on a VP of the wireless company, he resists cooperating with the police. Only when Pearlman resorts to threats does he begin to get the picture. "How about this," Pearlman says to him. "How about the State's Attorney for Baltimore City calls a press conference on the courthouse steps to declare that Bay Wireless is in league with the most violent drug traffickers in the city, preventing their arrest and apprehension by law enforcement."
At the Baltimore municipal offices, a bewildered Dennis Wise encounters City Hall red tape at its stickiest, and learns that he needs a slew of permits from a variety of city agencies before he can even contemplate opening a gym. Later, when he shares his frustration with Reverend Reid, a friend of the Deacon, Reid asks Cutty if he happened to "use my name." Hearing no for an answer, Reid has his assistant phone State Delegate Odell Watkins.
Barksdale soldier Bernard, with his girlfriend Squeak, rents a car to make the next I-70 run to purchase a bag full of disposable phones - burners - but this time he's followed by Detective Sydnor, who tracks each purchase. Greggs and McNulty meanwhile press Bubbles back into service, wiring him to record his drug purchase in Hamsterdam from Barksdale dealer Bodie. He's instructed to wait until Bodie is low on product and then make a large enough purchase that Bodie has to phone for a replenished supply. Bubbles follows orders, and sure enough, Bodie cranks up his burner to order up a new supply of heroin.
At the Detail Office, McNulty is busy typing up a transcript of Bubble's conversation with Bodie when the cops decide to order Chinese food. Sitting in their car after picking up the food, McNulty and Prez hear a radio call alerting them to an officer in need of assistance a few blocks from where they sit. They screech off, McNulty jumping out of the car when they arrive, and Prez driving on to look for the source of the gunshots they hear. More shots are fired and a short while later, McNulty comes upon Prez, kneeling over the body of a dead cop, Patrolman Derrick Waggoner, whom Prez has mistaken for a criminal and killed.
Barksdale, still mired in the old days, reassures Bell that things are going to be okay. "We gonna be back where we was, String. I can smell it, man. Just gotta get this boy Marlo and then spread out like we do." Bell tells Barksdale that the co-op is not happy about the ongoing violence over Marlo, to which Barksdale responds, "Fuck them niggers."Bell realizes that trying to convince Barksdale that he's wrong, and that the rules have changed, is hopeless.
Barksdale quizzes Bell about whether Bell in fact gave the go-ahead to shoot Omar on a Sunday morning. "Sunday truce been there as long as the game itself," Barksdale says. "I mean, you can do some shit and say what the fuck, but hey, never on no Sunday." Changing the subject, Bell suggests that they add a few more crews in Hamsterdam. "Take what profit we can," Bell says. "You trust that shit?" Barksdale wants to know. "So far," Bell responds. "An' if they runnin' a game, ain't be no one above a crew chief who take a charge, right?"
Pearlman and Daniels pay a call on FBI Special Agent Fitzhugh, to try and convince him to lean on the cellular company that makes the disposable mobile phones, and see if he can't convince them to be even more cooperative with the police.
"They're only half scared of us," Pearlman says, "but a visit from the feds? You all have a profile enough to push them." Fitzhugh however tells them that "the bureau's a little busy with counterterrorism, and our U.S. Attorney here only touches himself at the mention of political corruption."
Proposition Joe goes to see Marlo's ally Vinson, offering to mediate the peace between Marlo and Barksdale. "Tell the boy he can come in with the co-op," Prop Joe says. "If he takes our package, which by the way is better than the best he putting out there now, he'll keep his corners. Guaranteed." Vinson replies that Marlo might listen, except that he thinks Avon is weak right now. Prop Joe reminds him: "You ever know Avon Barksdale to back down from anything?"
Daniels visits Prez at Police Headquarters. Prez is in shock over what he's done, and Daniels gently coaches him about what he needs to say to take care of himself. Among other things, he urges Prez to get a lawyer but Prez refuses. "No, sir. I'm done." Departing, Daniels tells Sgt. Landsman that he wants someone to go home with Prez. "For tonight at least, he's a suicide watch."
In the wiretap room at the Detail Office, Freamon says that he's now got taps on eight of the burners. What they're looking for, Freamon explains, "is for one of these phones to show a signature for our man Bodie. Calls to his girlfriend, his grandmother - the numbers we pulled off his burner. We see that, we know it's his phone. We know it's his phone, we know that he uses it to sell drugs. We know all that - we get a tap and pray like hell he doesn't throw it away anytime soon."
Dennis Wise meets with State Delegate Odell Watkins, who offers his help in cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that's entangled Wise. An unhappy Bell meanwhile meets with State Senator Clay Davis, showing him a letter he just received from HUD saying that Bell is not yet certified as a developer. "I give you a quarter million dollars to have them tell me my paperwork is insufficient to certify me as a developer in the empowerment zone?" Davis says he'll straighten things out, but that Bell needs to understand that real estate is a different line of work: "It ain't like no drug deal, String. You don't put your money on the street and have it come right back. It don't work like that. Patience, my man. Patience."
At Carcetti's office, Councilman Anthony Gray surprises Carcetti by showing him a new "Gray for Mayor" bumper sticker he's had made up. "Nice colors," Carcetti says. "You got a platform?"
Unaware somehow of Carcetti's own ambitions, Gray invites Carcetti to run with him on his ticket, for Council President. "Me at the top of the ticket," says Gray. "an emerging black leader, handsome, well-spoken - you the Great White Hope, the new voice of civic reform. We'd give Royce a run, boy." Carcetti's response: "What makes you think I'm interested in council president?" "What the hell else you got going?" Gray wants to know, underestimating his friend.
In Hamsterdam, a young black teenager turns up dead, and Colvin's creation is suddenly threatened. Carver tries to convince Herc to help him move the body a few blocks, out of Hamsterdam, so the detectives assigned to the case won't start asking around Hamsterdam. Herc is outraged and refuses to help. In fact, he's so upset with the way things are going that he phones the Baltimore Sun, presumably with the idea that he'll blow the whistle on Colvin and Hamsterdam.
When Colvin arrives on the scene and realizes that Carver moved the body, he insists to Carver that he'll take the rap for tampering with the scene of the crime. And he also pulls together a group of dealers from Hamsterdam and reads them the riot act: "What I'm sayin' is, come tomorrow, if I don't have a shooter in bracelets, the Hamsterdam thing is over, finished. It's back to the corners for all of us and fuck y'all any way we can. You hear me? It was good while it lasted. For y'all it was cash on the barrel and no one needs no bail money. For me, I had clean corners damn near everywhere I looked. But that's all gone tomorrow unless y'all bring me my shooter."
At the Funeral Home, Brianna Barksdale finally gets her sit-down with her brother Avon and Stringer. The two of them stonewall her on the subject of her son, pointing out that McNulty is a liar and that there's no evidence that D'Angelo was murdered. "D. did not roll on us," Brianna says. "He came to the edge, but he turned around and walked away."
Feeling cornered by her accusations and her pleas to understand what really happened with D'Angelo, Barksdale grows angry: "The fuck you even thinking? That I had something to do with it? That I could do that to my own kin? Is that what you think? The fuck is in your head Brie? I ain't do nothing to D. I ain't have shit to do with it." "To do with what?" Brianna wants to know.
McNulty, slightly intimidated, has dinner with Theresa D'Agostino in a fancy D.C. restaurant. The more she learns about him - that he only has a year of college under his belt, that he is essentially an apolitical being who doesn't know the difference between a red state and a blue state and who didn't even bother to vote in the presidential election - the less interested she is in him. When McNulty takes her home, she doesn't invite him in.
When Bell learns about Colvin's edict that Hamsterdam will be shut down if no one turns himself in, he asks one of his soldiers who the shooter was. "Some young boy in Tuckie's crew," he learns.
When Bell asks why he used the gun, his soldier tells him: "Some nigger in one o' Ghost Kane's crews laughed at his shoes." "Do it," Bell replies, and sure enough, a bit later, a young black man turns himself in at the Western District headquarters.
10 - Reformation
"Call it a crisis of leadership."
- Proposition Joe
New York enforcer Brother Mouzone and Lamar arrive at the scene of the demolished towers. With Lamar questioning the disappearance of the buildings, Mouzone explains it simply, "Reform, Lamar. Reform." But with revenge on his mind Mouzone immediately sets about finding Omar.
On the streets of the West Side, the war between Marlo and Barksdale continues to draw blood. Fruit muscles through the spectators of a crime scene to find one of his men dead. A few blocks away, Justin and Jamal finds Latroy shot to death moments earlier beside the driver's side of Marlo's Denali. Minutes later, Slim Charles and crew report in to Avon that two more are gone.
At the Detail Room, Freamon manages to connect a burner to Bodie after he uses it to call his grandmother. Daniels and Pearlman visit Judge Phelan, pleading with him to speed up the process by which the Detail is able to tap into the burners. By the time the cops have figured out the numbers on the burners, the cell phones are trashed a few days later. Phelan, always playful with Pearlman, is in a cooperative mood: "Best I can do for you is this: you give me a boilerplate affidavit with the [probable cause] from the court report. And as you get fresh numbers for new disposables, you call me any time, day or night, to jump phones."
Afterwards, Daniels asks Pearlman about Phelan's flirtatous behavior towards her. Beneficial as it is to their case, Daniels is curious to know how long its been going on. Pearlman explains that Phelan has been like this since the first time she stepped into his courtroom. "Bet you won all your motions," Daniels observes.
Bunny Colvin meets with Carver to thank him for having moved the dead body away from Hamsterdam. He appreciates Carver's loyalty, he says, but adds that Carver "ain't shit when it comes to policin'." Colvin's primary criticism is that while Carver has good instincts as a cop, he has failed to develop any confidential sources on the street to tell him what's really going on, and that failure inhibits his effectiveness.
He is interrupted, however, with bad news from Lt. Mello, who tells him a local reporter is on to Colvin's scheme. "He's been to the free zones - all three of 'em," Mello says. "Now he's callin' around for quotes."
Colvin quickly arranges to meet the reporter at Hamsterdam and when he's asked who knows about this at headquarters, Colvin lies to him: "Command is well aware of the situation." In a desperate bid to keep the lid on Hamsterdam, Colvin convinces the reporter that prosecution of the dealers will begin soon, and implores him to sit on the story for a couple of weeks. "Bottom line is that if you start throwing calls right now, everyone is gonna shit blue thinking we got a leak. They might come up on the case early, not get all they could out of the work we did down here." The reporter agrees to give Colvin a week in exchange for the exclusive.
Dennis "Cutty" Wise, having pulled his gym together, goes to Hamsterdam to round up young boys he can work with. Carver, supervising a basketball game among the kids of Hamsterdam, urges them to check out Wise's place. When they do show up, however, they are so unruly and disrespectful that Wise loses his temper and runs them off. Later, determined to stick with his plan of helping some of the young dealers get back on the right path, Wise returns to Hamsterdam and apologizes to the boys he pushed away. "I'm new at this coachin' thing," he says. "I got us off on the wrong foot. Didn't wanna leave it between us, you thinkin' I gave up on y'all."
Brother Mouzone, making discreet inquiries into the whereabouts of the man who shot him the last time he was in Baltimore, learns that his name is Omar, that he's not part of Barksdale's gang and that he is gay. For his part, Omar asks his counselor Butchie to put the word out that Omar will pay cash money to get at the Barksdale gang. Butchie says that isn't necessary, and tells him what Omar wanted to know all along: the funeral home location of Barksdale's headquarters.
Theresa D'Agostino, having agreed to be a campaign consultant for Tommy Carcetti, meets with the candidate and his friends, advising him that he needs more black faces behind him in order to get elected Mayor of Baltimore. She points out that the only way Carcetti can win is to ensure that his good friend Anthony Gray mounts a viable candidacy, drawing votes away from Mayor Royce. "Splitting the black vote is the only way to make the math work," she says. Carcetti is stricken with a rare bout of conscience as he considers that Gray, one of his closest friends, will be reduced to playing a supporting role in Carcetti's political rise. "It isn't personal," advises D'Agostino. "It's politics. Live with it or lose."
At his headquarters, Stringer Bell arrives to discover three new bodyguards, two of which shadow him when he departs, much to his dismay. Arriving at a West Baltimore liquor store, he orders the bodyguards to stay in the car while he goes inside. There, he meets members of the drug syndicate - Proposition Joe, Fatface Rick and Phil Boy - who are angry about the ongoing feud between Barksdale and Marlo.
They inform Bell that if the matter isn't settled quickly, the Barksdale gang will be cut off. "The boys don't want to extend that good shit if it keeps you and your people out on them corners bangin'," says Prop Joe. He also tells Stringer that he won't be leading the syndicate any longer either if Avon doesn't chill out: "The feeling is it ain't right for you to be at the head of our table, when you can't call off your dog. Call it a crisis of leadership."
Marlo, also intent on revenge, waits outside the house of Devonne, the girl who seduced him at the behest of Barksdale, and lured him to the Lake Trout Lounge. As she emerges from her home, Marlo shoots her twice in the chest and puts a final bullet in her mouth.
Carrying the syndicate's message back to Avon, Stringer focuses on the positive: "I just came from Prop Joe," he tells Avon. "He say we can still work this out." But he also tells Barksdale the bad news: "Prop Joe and them niggers, they took a vote. We ain't have the good dope, so even if we win, we lose, 'cause we ain't gonna have the product to put it on the fucking corners."
Bell further accuses Avon of "shooting dope without a fucking needle, getting' high on a power trip, playin' soldier." Bell pleads hard with Barksdale to drop the feud with Marlo, pointing out that the stakes are much higher than a few corners, but their talk is interrupted with news that Marlo has killed Devonne. "You still want to talk truce, String?" Avon wants to know. Later, Bell makes a call to the Baltimore police department.
At the Detail Room, McNulty and Greggs return to discover that the Barksdale gang has ditched their burners much faster than usual, and so the Detail no longer has any phones tapped. "We just spent $9,000 and change for 18 intercepts," Daniels says, "five of them non-pertinent. That's close to $700 per drug call."
In desperation, they hatch a plan - which they carry to Judge Phelan - to try and sell burners to the Barksdale gang. "Let me understand," says Phelan. "You want to sell drug traffickers a series of cell phones that are pre-approved for telephonic intercepts. And you want me to sign off on court-ordered taps on a bunch of phones that - at the time I am signing the order - have not been used for any illegal activity whatsoever." Phelan then agrees to the plan.
Greggs and McNulty press Bubbles into service once again. Bubbles is an acquaintance of Squeak, girlfriend of Bernard, whose job it is to make the periodic run to convenience stores and purchase the burners for the Barksdale gang. Intercepting Squeak as if by accident, Bubbles makes her an offer she finds difficult to refuse. He'll sell her the same kind of cell phone her boyfriend is purchasing but at a seriously discounted rate. Later, Squeak brings Bernard to meet Freamon, posing as a hustler. Bernard is skeptical but Freamon plays his role well and Bernard takes the bait: "We can do business," he says.
Colvin finally faces the music at his Comstat meeting. He shows a variety of photographs of former drug corners, now clean and empty of vice. Plowing ahead, he explains step by step the creation of Hamsterdam, and how the result was a dramatic drop in felony incidents in his district. Rawls gets it even as his incredulous colleagues in the department do not: "Don't you see what he's done. He legalized drugs!"
Colvin is careful to explain that it is he, not his men, who are guilty: "What I did, I did knowingly and on my own. My men had nothin' to do with it. They thought it was all part of an elaborate trap. So if you need me to fall on that sword, I'm good with that."
Rawls, as furious as he is, is also grudgingly impressed with Colvin's outrageous scheme. "Bunny, you cocksucker, I got to give it to you, a brilliant idea. Insane and illegal, but stone-fuckin'-brilliant nonetheless. After all my puttin' my foot up people's asses to get the numbers down, he comes along and in one stroke, gets a 14 fuckin' percent decrease. Fuckin' shame it's gonna end our careers, but still."
As a parting shot, Colvin hands Commissioner Burrell a stack of letters from community associations, ministers, business people, citizens. "All positive," Colvin says. "Happy the dealers aren't on their corners anymore." Oh, and one more thing, he adds as he exits: "A Sun reporter is aware of my deployments. I told him a major investigation was pending and he agreed to delay his article."
Later, Burrell reports to an incredulous Mayor Royce what Colvin has been up to. "He did it without our knowledge," Burrell is quick to reassure. He tries to convince the Mayor that they can make it disappear, explain it away as "some sort of new initiative to trap high end drug dealers," but Royce is having none of it. "I trusted you, Erv," he says to Burrell. You let me down. This goes wrong, no tellin' the damage. On this, you walk point."
Brother Mouzone sends his soldier Lamar into a low-end gay bar to see if he can scare up Omar. When Omar isn't in evidence, they try another gay bar, and while Omar isn't around, we do spot Major Rawls, sitting at the bar, off duty and on the prowl.
Lamar returns to the first bar, still looking for Omar, and roughs up a customer who irritates him before departing. Omar's man Dante, taking all of this in, follows Lamar to the parking lot and asks if he can help him. Brother Mouzone flattens Dante with a punching, saying to him: "I don't doubt it for a minute."
11 - Middle Ground
"We don't need to dream no more."
- Stringer Bell
Brother Mouzone confronts Omar on a dark West Side street, and after a tense standoff, reveals what's on his mind: How can he get to Stringer Bell?
In the Detail Office, Freamon, McNulty and Officer Caroline Massey begin reaping the fruits of their scheme to sell burners to the Barksdale gang. Soon, however, they're frustrated again when they realize that Stringer Bell is still out of reach.
He has his own mobile phone, and doesn't use a burner like his soldiers do. McNulty, remembering an FBI device that plucked a phone number off a cell tower during the waterfront investigation, visits his old pal Agent Fitzhugh and asks if he can borrow it. He's stunned to learn that his own department has three such devices, provided by Homeland Security. Sure enough, he finds them unopened, in the department's storage room.
Police Commissioner Burrell debates with Rawls and other ranking officers what to do about Hamsterdam, but the decision ultimately belongs to Mayor Royce. The Mayor is involved in his own internal debate, with political advisors on the one hand urging him to shut it down immediately and public health officials on the other arguing that Hamsterdam has given them rare access to an at-risk population.
For his part, the Mayor is intrigued by the drop in violent crime and is inclined to explore ways to extend the experiment without spending political capital. "A 14% decline in felonies citywide and I might be untouchable on this. We need to see if there's some way to keep this thing going without calling it what it is."
Dennis Wise continues to work with the boys at his West Side gym, but it's a make-shift affair and as he teaches them to box, he worries that one of them may be injured because his equipment is second rate. In desperation, he pleads his case to Avon Barksdale, who, to Wise's amazement, gives him $15,000 to fix up the gym, $5000 more than Wise asked.
Stringer Bell, angry that the $250,000 he gave State Senator Clay Davis has produced none of the promised results, adds a new term to his vocabulary: "rainmade."
Maurice Levy, Bell's lawyer, explains: "A guy says if you pay him, he can make it rain. You pay him. If and when it rains, he takes the credit. If and when it doesn't, he comes up with reasons for you to pay more. Clay Davis rainmade you." Observing Bell's angry response, he adds: "It's an old game in this town, and Clay Davis? That goniff was born with his hand in someone's pocket. I just wish you'd have run all this by me earlier."
Burrell, not understanding the Mayor's reluctance to shut Hamsterdam down, fears that he's being set up and goes to Councilman Carcetti with the story, hoping Carcetti will use it against the Mayor. "I spin Royce before he spins me," Burrell tells Carcetti. Soon, Carcetti shares the news with Theresa D'Agostino, who advises him to get in touch with Colvin and hear his side of the story first-hand.
Having worked himself into a full-fledged rage, Bell arrives drunk at Avon's safehouse, demanding to see his partner. While he's waiting, Bell tells Slim Charles that he has a job for him: killing Clay Davis.
Slim Charles is taken aback by the request: "Shit, murder ain't no thing, but this here is some assassination shit," he tells Bell. Barksdale arrives at the same moment, amused by Bell's state, and tells him that "Slim gonna have to sit this one out." When Bell protests, Avon reminds him that to take out a state senator will bring a world of cops down on them. Besides, Avon chides, "You a fuckin' businessman. You don't wanna get all gangsta wild and shit."
Once the mobile phone tracking device is up and running, Freamon plucks Bell's private cell number out of the ozone in no time, and is puzzled when he observes Bell calling Major Bunny Colvin.
Later, unknown to the Detail, Bell meets Colvin in a graveyard at night, and betrays his partner Avon, who is thwarting Bell's ambitions to expand their empire. Not only does Avon insist on prolonging the feud with Marlo but he won't let Bell order a hit on Davis. So Bell tells Colvin the location of the safehouse where Avon hides out, and that the police will find an arsenal of weapons there.
Bell expresses hope that Colvin will limit Avon's fall to five years or less in jail. "If you hit the joint, his people are gonna try to take any weight, say all that firepower is theirs. So all you gotta do is hit him with the parole back-up." Colvin responds that Avon will do at least a nickel, and says to Bell, "He musta done something to you." Bell's response: "It's only business."
Avon has the same response - it's all about business - when Brother Mouzone interrupts Avon's haircut in a West Baltimore barber shop. Mouzone recounts his near-death experience the previous year at the hands of Omar, making it clear he knows Omar was set up to kill him, and that it was Stringer Bell who set the plot in motion.
Barksdale asks if money will fix the problem, but Mouzone says only one course of action will resolve the matter: "What you got here is your word and your reputation. With that alone, you've still got an open line to New York. Without it, you're done." In other words, Stringer Bell must pay for his sins. Cornered, Barksdale sees no option but to cooperate.
Later, he and Bell reminisce over a bottle of Johnnie Walker at Avon's harborside condo, but their hearts aren't in it. Recalling the days when their worst crime was stealing a badminton set from a toy store - "We ain't even have no yard," Avon laughs - Bell is thinking other thoughts: "If I had the money then I have today, I coulda bought half the property round the waterfront." Avon urges him to forget about all that for awhile. "Dream with me," he says.
Stringer's response: "We don't need to dream no more. We got real estate, man, real shit we can touch." When Stringer says he has a meeting at their condo development site the next day, he's struck by Avon's response: "What time you meetin'?" When Bell answers - "round noon" - there's no turning back.
Theresa D'Agostino has called McNulty, and like an obedient puppy, he shows up to meet her at a hotel bar in downtown Baltimore. She says she's missed him, and he's inclined to believe her until she mentions a rumor she's heard: that a police commander named Bunny Colvin has legalized drugs in his district. That's the moment McNulty realizes he's being played, and he departs quickly, leaving D'Agostino to contemplate her misjudgment.
Carcetti, having learned of Hamsterdam from Burrell, confronts Colvin, who takes him on a tour of his neighborhoods, now alive with routine city life. Carcetti also visits the station house, where cops - freed from drug interdiction - are involved in standard police investigations: church burglaries and the like.
Colvin also brings Carcetti to a community meeting, where the residents cautiously applaud the fact that they've taken back the streets in their neighborhood. Carcetti is impressed at first, but appalled when Colvin takes him to Hamsterdam to witness the ugly side of Colvin's clean neighborhoods.
In the Detail Room, McNulty, Freamon, Greggs and Pearlman celebrate when they hear Bell incriminate himself over their wiretap. Their relief is premature, however. Omar meets Mouzone outside Bell's development site, and when Bell arrives, they follow him inside. After shooting his bodyguard, they pursue Stringer up the stairs until he's trapped. Omar tells Bell that Avon has given him up. Then he and Mouzone unload their weapons into Bell, who falls dead to the floor of the condominium he hoped to create.
12 - Mission Accomplished
"...we fight on the lie."
- Slim Charles
Bunk investigates the murder of Stringer Bell, determining that two shooters were involved. But when he asks the only eye witness - Bell's contractor Andy Krawczyk - what he saw, Krawczyk responds: "I told you I saw only the one. I know he was black. Big, I thought. With a large weapon." "BNBG," responds Bunk, dredging up an old detective adage: Big Negro, Big Gun.
McNulty is distraught over Bell's demise, "like Stringer was kin" is the way Greggs puts it. Pursuing the drug dealer has been his obsession for two years, and the timing - soon after he'd overheard Bell incriminate himself on a wiretap - is especially hard to stomach. Had Stringer lived, McNulty would have taken far greater pleasure in arresting Bell in the near future.
Carcetti and his campaign advisor Theresa D'Agotino disagree over Hamsterdam. In spite of his designs on the Mayor's office, Carcetti is reluctant to exploit Hamsterdam for political gain, having seen the impact of legalized drugs on the city's crime rate. D'Agostino, who views the scandal as the opening her client has been waiting for, can't fathom Carcetti's hesitation: "C'mon, Tommy. They dealt you a winning hand and you're acting like you forgot how to play."
In spite of his role in Stringer's death, Avon genuinely grieves the loss of his lifelong friend and partner. Slim Charles, seeking to reassure, tells Avon the crew is ready to bounce back on Marlo but is stunned when Avon tells him that Marlo didn't kill Bell; that other business did Bell in.
"But I couldn't fix it," Avon says, finally realizing that Stringer was right all along about turf wars. "Fuck Marlo," he says. "And fuck this fucking war. All this beefin' over a couple of fuckin' corners." In response, Slim Charles articulates the gangster's dead-end moral imperative: "It don't matter who did what to whom. Fact is, we went to war an' now there ain't no goin' back... If it's a lie, then we fight on the lie. But we gotta fight."
At the Mayor's office, the administration continues to fret over how to spin Hamsterdam now that it will soon be exposed. The State's Attorney tells Mayor Royce that if it's labeled "legalization," his office won't stand for it. The term "harm reduction" is discussed. "What if we were able to suggest that by limiting our street-level enforcement, we're concentrating our resources on high-level trafficking?" the Mayor wonders.
In the Detail Room, the wiretaps are buzzing with speculation about who killed Stringer, and Marlo is the prime suspect. Colvin gives McNulty a key bit of information gleaned from Stringer Bell before he was shot: the address of the safe house where Avon is holed up. "That right there might be the last bit of police work in a long and storied career," observes Colvin.
Omar meets Brother Mouzone at a motel and discovers Dante: incarcerated, bruised and beaten, ashamed that he's revealed Omar's whereabouts to the murderous Mouzone. Omar is glad simply to see Dante alive. On the way out, Mouzone, heading back to New York, gives Omar his gun for disposal: "It being your town, I trust you to do it proper."
Dennis "Cutty" Wise carries the torch for Grace still, and while she's kind to him when he waits outside her school - even offering "I'm proud of you. Dennis" - she makes it clear their moment has passed.
Gregg's mobile rings and, noting that it's Cheryl calling, she doesn't take the call. She's in bed with another woman. Cheryl calls McNulty next to find out Greggs' whereabouts, but McNulty, a seasoned philanderer himself, quickly realizes what's up and covers for Greggs.
Prez and Freamon discuss the charges Prez may face for having shot a fellow cop. Prez is distraught to learn that the State's Attorney is referring the matter to a grand jury, but Freamon hastens to reassure him: "It's an administrative charge. You can fight it and win, if you want." Prez says he isn't sure he was meant to be a police officer, and when Freamon asks what exactly he was supposed to be, Prez has no answer.
Daniels, learning via McNulty's tip that his Detail can very possibly nail Barksdale, orders them to sit on the safehouse till Avon shows up.
At the Mayor's office, Burrell is told that he must take the rap for Hamsterdam. Ready with his own plan, however, he fights back: "Not necessarily," he says. "Not if I talk about how we were under pressure to keep the crime down, to juke the stats district-by-district, about how Colvin, under pressure, lost his way, about how I came to you weeks ago to tell you what he'd done and to assure you that we were on top of the situation, that Colvin would be relieved and his plan aborted, but you heard about the drop in Colvin's felony rate and you sent me packing. Brought your liberal-ass do-gooders in here to seriously consider this horseshit while Colvin's mistake grew and grew. My hands were tied, Mr. Mayor."
It's up to the Mayor, Burrell makes clear, if Burrell will say that on the record. The other option, he says, is that "I put what I can on crazy-ass Bunny Colvin and I take the hit. And if Carcetti or Gray holds hearings, I'm a wall between them and you. In which case, I'm your commissioner for a full five-year term."
At last the cops descend on Hamsterdam, and everyone scatters: dopers, dealers, debutantes in the family sedan, with the police in hot pursuit. In the aftermath, Johnny's body turns up, alone and abandoned except for the rats.
Colvin learns that Burrell has personally intervened with the provost at Johns Hopkins to trash Colvin's name. The university security job that Colvin expected to retire to suddenly evaporates, and worse is yet to come.
Carcetti and D'Agostino watch TV transfixed as the bust goes down in Hamsterdam, plotting their next move. As Carcetti types notes in his computer, D'Agotino advises him how to position Gray so he's most effective at splitting the vote in the coming Mayor's race: "Save the best questions for Tony Gray," is her cynical assessment. "He needs to shine even more than you."
Slim Charles and another Barksdale soldier alert Avon that Marlo is a sitting duck at the rim shop. As Avon arrives at the safehouse to suit up for battle, he's observed by Daniels' crew, who have been waiting for this moment. Shortly, the cops make their presence known to Barksdale and his soldiers, who first seek an exit route and, finding all of them blocked, wait with resignation for their fate.
Surveying the arsenal they've gathered, Barksdale feeds the soldiers their next line as the cops arrive: "Y'all ask me, you ugly-ass gangsters shouldn't be messin' with all these guns y'all brought up in here."
Once the cops are inside, the solider Perry indeed claims the guns are his, but McNulty isn't buying: "You fall on the parole violation," he tells Avon. "No matter what else happens, you do every day of what's left of your seven without ever seeing a jury." The weapons, McNulty adds, "we take federal. See if we can't get you some more years."
Avon pulls out a classic jailbird response: "Shit, you only do two days no how. Day you go in..." The soldier Sapper finishes the sentence: "...and the day you come out." Handing Avon the search-and-seizure warrant, McNulty tells Avon to read it slowly, and as he does, Avon is stunned to see the source of the information that led the cops to him: Stringer Bell. "In between them two days, something for you to think on," McNulty adds.
Colvin, called on the carpet by Rawls and Burrell, learns that his little experiment in social engineering has dire consequences. Not only has he lost his post-retirement job, but he's being busted to lieutenant and will not retire with a Major's pension. Rawls adds: "You bend over for us, or I swear to God, I will spend what's left of my career shitting on every last supervisor in your district, from the shift commanders down to the sector sergeants. Not a one of them will have a career if we hear so much as a bark out of you."
With Avon back in jail and Hamsterdam razed by bulldozers, Marlo sends his soldiers back to the street to sling drugs. The consequences for Dennis Wise are swift. His kids, just starting to learn discipline and respect, are suddenly back in the drug business, and as the streets fill up with dealers, his boxing gym remains deserted.
In the aftermath, the Mayor refuses to fire Burrell, but he does cut loose his loyalist councilwoman Eunetta Perkins; Marla Daniels' biggest rival. That clears the way for Lieutenant Daniels' long-awaited promotion to Mayor.
It also enables Pearlman and Daniels to go public with their relationship. Pearlman professes her confusion when dining with Daniels: "But your wife... You and me in public!"
"She wins without me," Daniels explains. "On the mayor's ticket, she wins."
McNulty, lonely and disconnected, visits Beadie Russell, his friend from the longshoreman's case, who's surprised to see him. "I was at my old district tonight, where I think I used to feel pretty good. I wasn't so angry anyway, when I was there. And someone said something, I guess..." McNulty realizes that the way he's been living his life has only worked for closing a case. Looking at Beadie, he tries to forge a new way.
At City Hall, Carcetti and Gray do hold hearings, but Burrell and Rawls stonewall them when they dig into the details of Hamsterdam.
"What we have here, I'm afraid, is nothing more complicated than a solitary police commander who, under great pressure, proved himself amoral, incompetent and unfit for command," Rawls says.
Carcetti has heard enough and interrupts the Commissioner: "We can forgive Major Colvin, who in his frustration and despair, found himself condoning something which can't possibly be condoned. But, gentlemen, what we can't forgive - what I can't forgive, ever - is how, we - you, me, this administration, all of us, have turned away from those streets in West Baltimore. The poor, the sick, the swollen underclass of our city, trapped in the wreckage of neighborhoods that were once so prized, communities that we failed to defend, that we surrendered to the horrors of the drug trade."
Daniels offers McNulty another chance with his detail but McNulty turns it down, opting instead to return to the life of a patrolman in the Western division. The dealers are back on the streets, the cops after them once again; Gray begins his campaign for Mayor and so does Carcetti; Hamsterdam is a pile of brick and rubble; Stringer Bell's girlfriend Donette weeps in her apartment having lost a second man; Omar tosses the shotgun that killed Bell into the Baltimore harbour; Daniels, Greggs, Freamon and Sydnor dismantle the detail office and Barksdale goes to court to face the music.
In the back of the room his sister Brianna sits stone-faced, refusing to look at him, but Marlo is there observing, and he nods in respect to Barksdale, a fallen warrior.