Directed by: Clark Johnson
Story by: David Simon & Ed Burns
Teleplay by: David Simon
"You cannot lose if you do not play." - Marla Daniels
Detectives McNulty and Bunk visit the city morgue to view the body of William Gant, the state's witness in D'Angelo Barksdale's ill-fated murder trial. McNulty is convinced that Gant was murdered by the Barksdale organization, to send a message.
Lieutenant Daniels, who's been given a mixed bag of cops to create a case against Avon Barksdale, leads several members of his team to their new "office," a dungeon-like space in the basement of Mitchell Courthouse.
McNulty risks another visit to Judge Phelan to inform him that Gant — a witness in his courtroom — has been murdered. McNulty asks Phelan to pressure the police department's Deputy of Operations to open an investigation, but Phelan refuses, telling McNulty to go the press. McNulty says that will compromise the investigation, and asks Phelan this time to please keep his name out of any information he passes on.
Lt. Daniels tells Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman that the powers-that-be are sending him a message by the police they chose for his detail. "I can't build anything with the garbage they sent me," Daniels says. "If they gave me good policemen, I might do good police work." Daniels conclusion: He's being told not to dig deep into this case; just slap an indictment on Barksdale and get out.
Greggs, Herc and Carver do surveillance from the Towers' roof with the help of Bubbles, the scruffy, heroin-addicted C.I. He has volunteered to inform on the Towers drug dealers to even the score after they beat up his friend Johnny. Bubbles shows up with a bag of hats to sell to the Towers drug dealers, and each time he puts a red hat on a man, Greggs shoots pictures from the roof. The red hat identifies the dealers in photos.
Meanwhile, McNulty and Bunk show up at the low rise projects to intimidate D'Angelo. They take him downtown to interview him but first Daniels insists that Greggs participate. McNulty resists, but slowly realizes she is a smart cop. They play to D'Angelo's vulnerabilities, convincing him that the dead witness Gant was a church-going family man whose wife is dead and whose three children — showings him a picture of Bunk's three kids to corroborate this — now have no parents. D'Angelo is clearly moved, and agrees to write a letter to the three kids, telling them he is sorry their father was murdered. As he finishes the letter, his uncle's attorney Maurice Levy shows up and berates him for writing or saying anything at all.
After Judge Phelan calls Deputy Commissioner Burrell's office about the murder of the witness, McNulty's boss, Major Rawls, is even more furious, and threatens to pull McNulty off the case. Burrell points out if they do that, the Judge will go make a stink in the press and the city will be up in arms. So, says Burrell, "We're going to sit tight and hope that McNulty comes up short."
His crew complete, Daniels calls them all together in the task force's basement Detail Room to make introductions and announce partners. Detectives Greggs and Sydnor, Herc and Carver, Mahon and Polk (two drunks waiting on retirement), McNulty and Santangelo, and the screw up Roland "Prez" Pryzbylweski (Prez is the son-in-law of Major Valchek, commanding officer of the Southeastern District with an ear in the Mayor's office) with Detective Lester Freamon (a quiet cop who spends his day building dollhouse furniture).
Later, McNulty and Greggs try to convince Daniels that the apology letter D'Angelo has written is a valuable document. "Why apologize if you have nothing to apologize for?" Greggs asks. But Daniels doesn't buy it. Meanwhile, at a church gathering, where Avon and Stringer Bell are helping serve food, D'Angelo arrives with his eleven month old son and the boy's mother, Donette. Stringer admires Donette while uncle and nephew talk. D'Angelo tells Avon what happened when he was taken downtown, and is chided when he reveals he wrote a letter to Gant's children. D'Angelo is clearly fearful of being chastised by Avon.
Greggs and Bubbles scrutinize the surveillance photos, putting names to each member of the Towers' drug team. Meanwhile, Herc, Carver and Prez, stoked on beer, put in a 2 a.m. appearance at the Towers and bust heads. Things go terribly wrong when Prez punches one of the kids in the eye, and as the situation escalates, bottles, air conditioners and other debris reign down on the trio. They claim the kids in the project jumped them. Daniels is angry, but protects his officers anyway.
"You should have hung them," Daniels' wife Marla says of Prez, Carver and Herc, whose victim has lost an eye. "The department put you on a case it doesn't want," she says. "If you push too hard and any shit hits the fan, you'll be blamed for it. If you don't push hard enough, and there are no arrests, you'll be paying for that, too. The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play," she tells him.