Directed by: Dan Attias
Story by: David Simon & Ed Burns
Teleplay by: Ed Burns
"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, hung over 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 midlevel 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 recognize."
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 Grace has 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, 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's 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 lovelies from the party arrive to further welcome Avon home.